The Diet Detective: The Atkins DietPosted by hclibrary on Nov 5, 2012 in Eating Right, Reviews | 0 comments
by Teresa Rhoades
Dr. Robert Atkins wrote several books that discuss controlled-carbohydrate nutrition. According to Atkins, obesity and related health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, are the fault of the typical low-fat, high-carbohydrate American diet.
The Atkins diet is a high-protein, high-fat, and very low-carbohydrate regimen. It emphasizes meat, cheese, and eggs, while discouraging foods such as bread, pasta, fruit, and sugar. The idea being that by restricting carbohydrate intake, the body will burn more stored fat.
The four-step diet starts with a two-week induction program designed to rebalance an individual’s metabolism. Unlimited amounts of fat and protein are allowed, but carbohydrate intake is restricted to 20 grams per day. Foods allowed include butter, oil, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, and cream. The daily amount of carbohydrates allowed equals about three cups of salad vegetables, such as lettuce, cucumbers, and celery. Check here for a typical day’s menu.
The second stage is for ongoing weight loss. It allows 20-40 grams of carbohydrates a day. In this phase, you slowly add back in some nutrient-rich carbs, such as more vegetables and berries, nuts, and seeds. When the individual is about 10 pounds from their desired weight, they begin the pre-maintenance phase. This gradually adds one to three servings a week of high carbohydrate foods, such as a piece of fruit or slice of whole-wheat bread. When the desired weight is reached, the maintenance stage begins. It allows 40-60 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Some advantages of the diet
Atkins doesn’t require calorie counting or portion control. What you do track is the total carbohydrate content of an item minus its fiber content. For example, a half-cup of raw broccoli has 2.3 grams of total carbs and 1.3 grams of fiber, putting its net carb value at 1 gram. Since there are no limits on the amount of calories or quantities of foods allowed on the diet, there is little hunger between meals. According to Atkins, the diet can alleviate symptoms of conditions such as fatigue and irritability.
There is some short-term evidence that a low-carbohydrate diet may help people lose weight more quickly than a low-fat diet. In a year-long study, published in 2007 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, low-carb approaches worked better than low-fat diets. Overweight, premenopausal women went on one of four diets: Atkins, Zone, Ornish, or LEARN, a standard low-fat, moderately high-carbohydrate diet. The women in all four groups steadily lost weight for the first six months, with the most rapid weight loss occurring among the Atkins dieters.
Another article proposed to explain why the high-protein, low-carb diets seemed to work more quickly than low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets, at least in the short run. High-protein foods slow the movement of food from the stomach to the intestine this means you feel full longer and get hungrier later. Second, protein has a steady effect on blood sugar and avoids the quick, steep rise and fall in blood sugar that occurs after eating a rapidly digested carbohydrate, like white bread. Additionally, the body uses more energy to digest protein than it does to digest fat or carbohydrates.
Disadvantages of the diet
Drastically cutting carbs in the early phase of the program can result in some side effects, including headache, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, and constipation.
Furthermore, the low-carb or very low-carb diets restrict carbohydrates so much that they result in insufficient fiber and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Ellen Coleman, a registered dietician and author, said the diet is certainly riskier for overweight individuals with medical problems such as heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease, and diabetes than it is for overweight people with no health problems. This is because side effects include ketosis, dehydration, electrolyte loss, calcium depletion, weakness, nausea, and kidney problems. A number of leading medical and health organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Dietetic Association (ADA), and the American Heart Association oppose it.
The Atkins Diet has continued to evolve, even though its founder died in 2003. It now takes a healthier approach to eating than it previously did. It encourages eating more high-fiber vegetables, accommodates vegetarian and vegan needs, and addresses health problems that may arise when initially starting a low-carb diet.
For more information about Dr. Robert Atkins, you can consult the database Gale Biography in Context.
It is generally considered appropriate to consult with a physician and to have a physical evaluation before starting such a nutritional regimen, especially if you have any health conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease.
Wells, K. R. (2011). Atkins Diet. In L. J. Fundukian (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine (4th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 526-528). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from Gale Group