Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Atkins Diet

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The Atkins diet, a weight loss diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates developed by Dr. Robert C. Atkins, M.D. nearly 0 years ago, is a unique and popular weight loss method that is the subject of much debate.

The Atkins diet has basically four phases; the first phase is called the induction phase¹. This phase is where the dieter restricts carbohydrate consumption to 0 grams each day. The dieter receives carbohydrates primarily from salad and other non-starchy vegetables during this phase.

Phase two is called the ongoing weight loss phase². During this phase, the dieter adds carbohydrates in the form of nutrient-dense and fiber-rich foods by increasing his carbohydrate intake to 5 grams per day for the first week. Subsequently the dieter would incrementally increase carbohydrate daily intake by 5 grams per day (to a maximum of 5 grams per week) until weight loss stops. For example, in the second week, the dieter’s carbohydrate daily intake would be 0 grams per day; the third week would increase to 5 grams per day. Once weight loss stops, the dieter would then decrease his daily carbohydrate intake by 5 grams per day to continue a sustained, moderate weight loss.

The third phase is called the pre-maintenance phase³. This phase starts when the dieter has between 5 and 10 pounds left to lose. It is during this phase that one makes the transition from weight loss to weight maintenance by increasing the daily carbohydrate intake in 10 gram increments each week so long as very gradual weight loss is maintained.

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Phase four is called lifetime maintenance. The dieter may select from a wide variety of foods while controlling carbohydrate intake to ensure weight maintenance and a sense of well-being.


When comparing a sample daily diet (above) that adheres to the high protein philosophy of the Atkins diet to the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances, one will find that many of the important vitamins and minerals recommended daily amounts are either met or exceeded.

There are some significant exceptions in the sample, however, like daily recommended fiber, vitamin E and calcium for men and women in the 1-50 age category. Iron is also lower than the recommended allowance for women. This particular sample daily diet also only carries 1 calories, well below the 000 calories recommended for an average person. Dr. Atkins himself refers individuals on his diet to be checked by their personal physician to verify that this diet is allowable for them.

The fact of the matter is that diet and therefore dietary needs are highly individualized. The fact that one diet makes a person lose weight and another person gain weight on the same diet would tend to lead you to this decision.

The basic failure or success of any diet, be it a fad diet, a fact-based diet, or just a nutritious diet that follows the Recommended Daily Allowances of vitamins and minerals remains key to the person on said diet.

Many believe that continuing this lifestyle is the foundation for a lifetime of better health.

The four principles that form the core of the Atkins diet are supported by a solid foundation of medical and nutritional scientific research.

Number one is the fact that you will lose weight. Many thousands of men and women who have followed the Atkins approach to weight loss take off both pounds and inches.

In our obese society today, we need to lose many pounds. One in four Americans is considered to be in the obese weight category (more than 0 pounds above their ideal weight).

The number two core principle of the Atkins diet is that you will maintain your weight loss. Almost every person that you talk to has experienced one diet or another. Along with this experience, if you really talk to them, most everyone that has lost weight has gained the weight back. This is where the Atkins Nutritional Approach can really shine over other weight control programs. Most dieters return to their bad habits and do not like depriving themselves of the foods that they crave.

This can be a by-product of a low-fat, low-calorie diet (i.e. hunger). People who use the Atkins approach gradually find their individual level of carbohydrate intake, the tool that allows them to maintain a healthy weight for a lifetime.

The third core principle involves good health. With Atkins, you meet your nutritional needs by eating healthy, wholesome foods and omitting junk food. People who use the Atkins approach start feeling good usually long before their target weight is achieved. This is usually due to the abandonment of refined carbohydrates for whole, unrefined food.

The fourth phase lays the groundwork for disease prevention. By using the Atkins approach and following a controlled carbohydrate intake in your individual diet, one can lower your insulin production and people at high risk for chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes will see a marked improvement in their clinical parameters.

There may be hazards involved with using this high protein diet. When using the Atkins diet your body is sent into ketosis. This allows the body to get its energy from ketones, the breakdown of fat stores in the body. By using logical thinking, this will basically melt away the fat in your body. According to an article located on WebMD this ketosis can cause excess strain on your liver, kidneys, intestinal tract, cause lowered appetite, nausea and can cause bad breath in a small number of people. According to the American Heart Association, “the protein rich foods that are promoted by the Atkins diet also contain large amounts of saturated fats. Eating large amounts of high-fat foods for a sustained period raises the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer. People who can’t use excess protein effectively may be at higher risk of kidney and liver disorders, and osteoporosis.” (AHA website). The American Kidney Fund is warning Americans that “high-protein diets place such a significant strain on the kidneys that even conditioned athletes can become dehydrated, according to researchers at the University of Connecticut.” (AKF website).

In a study of 6 obese men and women, performed by Gary D. Foster, PhD, clinical director of the weight and eating disorders program at the University of Pennsylvania, half were randomly assigned the Atkins diet and the other half were prescribed a low-fat diet. Those on the Atkins diet lost significantly more weight in the first six months of the study. After 1 months, there was little difference in weight between those on the Atkins diet and those who stayed on the low-fat diet. Dr. Foster concluded that the Atkins diet works at producing weight loss. The Atkins diet also improved triglycerides and HDL cholesterol. The Atkins people stayed in the study longer (15% versus a 0% dropout rate). But, eating a lot of protein is hard on the kidneys and liver. And there’s some evidence that a high-protein diet promotes bone loss.” (www.WebMD.com, May 1, 00)

The information that is available about the Atkins diet causes concern for many aspects of its long term effects. There is a real controversy about the benefits and long term potential for damage to non-replaceable organs in your body.

Atkins, R. C. (00). Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution. New York Avon Books.

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