Atkins Diet - Good or Bad?
By Charles Hopkins
Published 04/21/2006 | Food & Drink
The Atkins diet, without a doubt, has been the most controversial diet of all time. Seldom does a week go by that the news media does not mention the Atkins diet.
The Atkins diet, first introduced in 1972 by cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins, is considered the most extreme of the low carb diets. Hundreds of research studies by universities and research teams throughout North America, Europe, and Asia have been conducted on the Atkins diet.
The Atkins diet, as with any diet program, has its good and bad points - but, whatever side you are on, one thing is for sure. Dr. Atkins, and the Atkins diet, has done for the diet and nutrition industry what Mohammad Ali did for the boxing industry. Dr. Atkins created new awareness and introduced new concepts that will forever affect how we look at diets for weight loss as well as diets for health. Although the low carb diet was first written about in the late 1800's, low carb dieting truly came to life with the birth of the Atkins diet.
Let's take a look at three good and bad points of the Atkins diet.
Atkins diet - the good stuff.
1. THE ATKINS DIET BURNS FAT FASTER THAN ANY OTHER DIET. The human body is designed to use two different fuels to sustain life - glucose from carbs or ketones from fat. Glucose is the primary fuel, fat the backup. Every weight loss diet is based on the concept of burning fat. Conventional diets generally are designed to burn fat by starvation - by eating fewer calories than you use every day. This causes the body to dip into its reserve energy source - the fat surrounding your abdomen and your thighs first.
The Atkins diet approaches fat burning a different way. It limits the glucose (carb) intake so the body adjusts itself to using ketones (fat) as its primary fuel. Normally within three to four days of starting, your body is literally a fat burning machine on the Atkins diet.
2. THE ATKINS DIET DOESN'T LEAVE YOU HUNGRY. Unlike most conventional diets, the Atkins diet is not based so much on calorie intake. Dr. Atkins does, however, warn that you should not stuff yourself but only eat until satisfied. Also, since you are replacing carbs with protein, and the main protein source is meat, a high percentage of each meal will consist of meat and fat. Meat and fat are more fulfilling and much slower to digest. Not only do you feel more satisfied at dinner, but it will stay with you longer on the Atkins diet.
3. THE ATKINS DIET IS SAFE AND HEALTHY. The vast majority of studies show the Atkins diet to be extremely healthy, in comparison to other conventional weight loss and lifestyle diets. Nearly every study shows the Atkins diet the winner in reducing cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. In addition, many cases of acid reflux, sleep apnea, and diabetes have either had the symptoms reduced or completely disappear while on the Atkins diet.
Also, you'll often hear "we have no way of knowing the long term safety of low carb diets". Fact is, the Atkins diet has been around for over 30 years - longer than most other weight loss programs. Although first written about at the end of the 19th century, the low carb diet has actually been around for centuries prior to that.
How so? The North American Eskimo. Their diet has primarily been no or very low carbs. Yet chronic diseases that are epidemic today, such as diabetes and heart disease, were practically unknown among the Eskimos. At least this was true until they were introduced to sugar and white flour. The Eskimos have been well studied and found to be a healthy and hardy bunch, even after centuries of living on a low carb diet. Yes - a low carb diet much more extreme than even the Atkins diet.
Atkins Diet - The Bad Stuff.
1. THE ATKINS DIET BURNS FAT TOO QUICKLY. The primary concern here is toxic overload. When toxins enter you body, either from environmental sources or from additives in prepared foods, your body's defense mechanism will quickly try to eliminate them through the liver and kidneys. Quite often the overload is such that the body will also hide some of these toxins in your fat cells. When burning fat these toxins are released again into your bloodstream. You can experience toxic overload when you burn fat too fast, as in the first weeks or months of the Atkins diet.
2. THE ATKINS DIET CAUSES FATIGUE. Yes, initially it does - for a couple of reasons. First, switching fuels from glucose to ketones is stressful to the body. It's a drastic change in your metabolism. You might say it's similar to mild drug withdrawal. Many people actually do have a "carb addiction" and not even realize it. Secondly, as we learned a minute ago, your body will quite likely be working hard dealing with toxic overload if burning fat too fast, as early in the Atkins diet.
3. THE ATKINS DIET LACKS GOOD NUTRITION. Plant life is the basic nutritional source for all living creatures, including humans. When an animal eats plants, some of the nutrients, such as calcium and other minerals, are sent to different parts of the body where needed. And even if we eat an animal from nose to tail, including the bones, we are still missing some of these nutrients and essential enzymes that are burned up in the metabolic process. Good nutrition suffers when we drastically limit carbs, particularly with the induction phase of the Atkins diet.
Atkins Diet - Is It Right for You?
The Atkins diet has been proven safe, effective and Dr. Atkins' nutritional concepts are basically sound. This is probably the best choice for fast weight loss for an upcoming wedding or cruise - or to jump start your new life. A lot of water and a GOOD vitamin supplement are strongly recommended with ANY diet, but particularly with the Atkins diet.
The Atkins diet can be adjusted to a less aggressive program if you have a lot of weight to lose and wisely choose to lose the pounds more slowly over a longer period of time. This would be less stressful, much healthier and give the stretched skin a chance to shrink. Skipping the induction phase is one way. You may find this more sustainable over the long haul using the Atkins diet.
One important key to health and success with any low carb diet is to make every carb count by choosing nutrient dense live carbs. These include fresh vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and green beans. This is critical where total carbs are very limited - such as with the first two stages of the Atkins diet.