Atkins Diet: Is it Safe?


The Atkins Diet is one of the most notorious weight loss programs of all time. It was first brought to public attention in the ’70’s by Doctor Robert Atkins, summarizing the program as a “low carbohydrate diet”. The diet was initially referred to as Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution but the diet has since been re-introduced with an accompanying book entitled Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution. The book has been a resounding success all over the globe reaching best seller lists for multiple years. At any one instance there are thought to be 25 million Americans on a low carbohydrate diet of some form. Relying on the success of the low carb diet, there have been several low carb products released into the market claiming to achieve similar results, though more quickly. So what exactly is the Atkins diet and why is it so popular? Also, does the diet maintain weight loss over the long term?

How does the Atkins Diet Work?

The induction period refers to the initial two weeks of the Atkins diet, during which there are strict guidelines on what foods can be consumed. The emphasis on low carbohydrate intake is evident, as no more than twenty grams are recommended per day. This leaves a diet almost exclusively off meats, poultry, bacon, sausages, oils, butter, margarine, cheeses, eggs and seafood. The twenty gram carbohydrate consumption is usually absorbed from small traces of carbs found in sauces, dressings, vegetables and cheeses, which typically build up to the 20 gram recommendation.

During the induction phase, there are a number of foods which are suggested to be completely removed from the diet. These include milk, fruits, breads, potatoes, corn, carrots, grains and cereals. Thankfully, after the induction period has passed, 5 grams of carbohydrates can be added to the diet weekly, slowly building up to a more familiar level. In the Maintenance phase dieters sustain no more than 40-90 grams of carbohydrates — even though this is a small percentage of what many major health professionals recommend.

Why Focus on Carbohydrates?

The Atkins diet stresses the importance of a low carbohydrate diet, as Atkins proclaims that these nutrients lead to obesity and illnesses. This theory appears a little loose when we look at countries with a well known carbohydrate diet, such as Japan who enjoy fruits, vegetables, bans and rice. The traditional Japanese diet of high carbs and low in saturated fat, results in Japan not only having the world’s lowest obesity rates, but also a relatively low amount of heart disease, cancer and diabetes in comparison to many other countries.

This creates some doubt as to the effectiveness of the Atkins Diet and the long term effects and implications. Next, we’ll have a look at the health risks involved if you choose to adopt the Atkins Diet.

Atkins Diet Health Risks and Implications

The Atkins Diet will not cause serious harm or pose danger to the majority of those following the diet, but this is more likely attributed to not being able to withstand the diet over a prolonged period of time. With every majority, there is a minority and it’s this minority which we will explore. One consequence of this form of diet is acidic urine — a consequence connected to any high protein diet which can ultimately lead to kidney stones and increase the risk of osteoporosis. A number of testimonials have been submitted to various sites online expressing their problems brought on by the Atkins. One man watched his own cholesterol level soar from 146 to 230 after only a couple of months following the new regime, whilst a teenager collapsed and died from electrolyte imbalances which can be traced back and linked with the diet. There was also a woman who experienced kidney stones and a diseased gall bladder after half a year following the Atkins plan.

Medical Studies and Research

You may have heard from various sources that the Atkins Diet is completely safe and does in fact allow you to lose weight. Two studies have been published which evaluate the long tern effectiveness of the Atkins Diet in comparison with a traditional low fat – low calorie diet. These two studies were conducted by The New England Journal of Medicine and Annals of Internal Medicine. So let’s look at the evidence. One of the risks measured was heart disease, and whether or not the probability of heart disease increases, decreases or remains the same on each diet. The tests concluded that various heart disease signs improved for those following the Atkins Diet, noting a decrease in serum triglyceride levels yet an increase in serum HDL which is also beneficial to the body. Both sets of tests saw reductions in LDL cholesterol and also the total cholesterol level and also both diets had achieved parallel levels of weight loss.

Such details made their way into media sectors, with people automatically assuming that on the basis of these figures the diet would be a success and allow them to lose weight healthily. People need to be aware of the reverse side of these reports which define the problems with the Atkins Diet in particular. In each of the diet groups, 40% abolished the program finding it too difficult to adapt their current diet. This equates to a 60% chance that you will be able to adhere to the diet for a yearly period. As for weight loss, at the end of the year the average weight loss was measured as 15.4 pounds after six months, though after a year the weight loss was reduced to a fraction of this, at 9.7 pounds. At the end of the year, those on the Atkins Diet had regained one third of their total weight. For diets which restrict many foods or one type of food for a long period of time, weight regain is common and the diets are very difficult to maintain.

A separate report by the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, detailed that Atkins followers reduced their daily calorie intake by 1,000. During the weight loss phase, Atkins dieters took only 1500 calories, on average, per day which is much less than what they had been eating prior to dieting. The number one rule for weight loss success is that the number of calories eaten should be less than the total calories burned. Since the choice of foods available to Atkins dieters is greatly reduced, this is the basis as to why those on the diet lose weight. Low carbohydrate diets are not miraculous; they limit the foods available to you and force you to eat less, not necessarily in a healthy manner.


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