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The Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet developed out of decades of clinical observation and research conducted by diet doctor, Robert C. Atkins, M.D.  The diet is based on the theory that reducing carbohydrates and eating more protein and fat will cause your fat stores to become a primary energy source. The body normally burns both fat and carbohydrates for energy, except carbohydrates are usually burned first. However, by drastically reducing carbohydrates, the body goes into a state of ketosis, which means it's burning its fats stores for fuel. Dr. Atkins' findings were published in his best-selling book, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, and several follow-up books.

For the first two weeks of the Atkins diet, called the induction period, carbohydrate consumption is restricted to 20 grams of net carbohydrates per day. During this time, fruit, sugar, milk, white rice and white flour products are not allowed with only a few leafy green vegetables. However, the amount of allowed foods are not restricted and calories are not counted. The protein and fat foods allowed include red meat, fish, poultry, full-fat cheese, butter, cream, mayonnaise and oils. Fiber-rich carbohydrate foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods are gradually increased in the diet until a stable weight is reached. Nonetheless, sugar, milk, white rice and white flour products always remain on the list of forbidden foods. 

Several studies have shown that in the short-term, overweight people on the Atkins diet lost more weight than those on a low-fat diet. However, in the long-term, there was little difference in weight loss between those that stayed on the Atkins diet or the low-fat diet. 

Many health experts are concerned about the long-term safety of the Atkins diet. There's concern that the diet may promote heart disease, liver and kidney problems and bone loss. There's also concern that the diet fails to distinguish between good fats (monounsaturated oils) and bad fats (saturated and polyunsaturated oils) or healthy low glycemic-load carbs and less healthy high glycemic-load carbs.

"The body needs a minimum of carbohydrates for efficient and healthy functioning -- about 150 grams daily," says Gail Frank, PhD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and professor of nutrition at California State University in Long Beach. "The brain needs glucose to function efficiently, and it takes a long time to break down fat and protein to get to the brain."

  1. Atkins R. Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution. New York: Avon Books, 2002.

  2. Foster GD et al. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med 2003 May 22;348(21):2082-90.

  3. Samaha FF et al. A low-carbohydrate as compared with a low-fat diet in severe obesity. N Engl J Med 2003 May 22;348(21):2074-81.

  4. The Atkins Diet:What the Experts Say. WebMD, online:

  5. http://www.webmd.com/content/article/92/101979.htm

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