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The Atkins diet has been around since the 1970’s but it was the re-release of the Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution over 10 years ago that generated the low-carb craze that is pervasive in our society today. According to the New Atkins Diet, people are overweight because they eat too many carbohydrate-rich foods. By restricting carbohydrates, the body will burn fat, including fat stores, for energy.
During metabolism, the body burns carbohydrates first and then moves onto fat. With the Atkins diet, there are very few carbohydrates to burn and so the body mainly burns fat and fat stores for energy. The metabolism of fat releases ketones into the body. A build up of this by-product will put the body into a ketogenic state or ketosis resulting in a decreased appetite and therefore a decrease in food intake.
A ketogenic state also occurs in people with uncontrolled diabetes and during starvation. A build up of ketones over time can disturb the body’s acid-base balance resulting in ketoacidosis, a state that has many negative side effects including muscle breakdown, nausea and headaches. It can also be fatal.
I am not going to lie; I am not a fan of the idea behind the Atkins Diet. In fact, my family refers to it as the “A word”. As a clinician who has spent countless hours teaching people with diabetes how to stay out of a ketogenic state, I can’t imagine recommending that someone do the exact opposite. While people who follow the Atkins Diet have been very successful in losing weight, in my opinion the risks far outweigh the benefits of a short-term weight loss. It is important to note that research shows that while people who follow the Atkins Diet experience weight loss, long term weight maintenance on this program is not better than any other popular diet. Despite the fact that questions about long-term safety and efficacy still exist, this one continues to be hugely popular and widely followed.
The New Atkins Diet consists of four phases, during which participants gradually increase their carbohydrate intake. However, even at it’s most liberal, the carbohydrate intake on this diet falls below the recommended amounts.
In this initial phase, which lasts 14 days, participants are limited to 20 grams of carbohydrates per day - most of these should come from salad and other non-starchy vegetables. The diet promises that this phase will jumpstart your weight loss though it warns that you may experience hunger and irritability. You are allowed to consume fish, fowl, shellfish, meat, eggs and non-starchy vegetables in unlimited quantities during this phase. Cheese and condiments are allowed in limited amounts. While transfat is not encouraged during this phase, other fat is not limited.
Ongoing Weight Loss
In this second phase you are allowed to add 5 grams of carbohydrate to your daily limit. The diet recommends staying at this level until you are within 10 pounds of your weight goal at which point you will move on to pre-maintenance.
Once you’re within 10 pounds of your weight goal you will gradually increase your carbohydrate intake by 10 grams every week until weight loss slows down to less than one pound per week. Continue at this level until you reach your goal and maintain it for one month. This carbohydrate amount is considered your Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium.
Once you’ve reached and maintained your goal weight you move onto lifetime maintenance. According to the diet, if you continue to keep your carbohydrate consumption at your Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium you will be able to stay within 5 pounds of your goal weight. The biggest different that I’ve noticed between this phase and pre-maintenance is that the diet encourages the use of the many Atkins bars and shakes during this phase.
As I mentioned above, I am not a fan of the Atkins Diet and after further review of it’s principles I still feel the same. This diet is low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The diet does not encourage low fat protein sources and does not differentiate between healthy and unhealthy fats, except to discourage transfat. However, saturated fats like poultry skin and butter are allowed in unlimited amounts. These principles go against the recommendations for cancer prevention as well overall good health.
While carbohydrate intake varies with each person, it can be as low as 40 grams per day in the maintenance phase, which is still lower than most health experts recommend. Carbohydrates are vital for bodily functions. They are needed for breathing, maintaining body temperature, as well as for the contraction and relaxation of the heart and other muscles.
It is generally recommended that carbohydrates provide about 50 to 60 percent of your daily calories. For someone on a 2,000 calorie diet that means 250 grams per day. Consider that a 2,000 calorie diet is high for someone who is trying to lose weight, even someone on a diet as low as 1,200 calories should have at least 150 grams of carbohydrates per day.
*Grade: D. This diet does not meet accepted standards for a healthy diet. It does not include all of the food groups and does not differentiate between healthy and unhealthy proteins and fats.
* Popular Diet Rating System
A: This diet meets accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It recommends food from all food groups with an emphasis on healthy choices within each food group.
B:This diet meets most accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It emphasizes healthy foods but does not include food from all food groups.
C: This diet only meets some accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It does not differentiate between food choices in each food group and therefore does not emphasize healthy foods.
D: This diet does only meets one or two accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet.
F: This diet does not meet any accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It does not differentiate between healthy foods and unhealthy foods and/or does not meet caloric needs.
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Published On: November 03, 2007