The Atkins diet

The Atkins diet was first introduced to the public in the 70s by Doctor Robert Atkins. The Atkins plan advocates a high protein, high fat diet with a significant restriction of carbohydrates. Since the Atkins regimen contradicts the overwhelming majority of research on how to healthily lose and maintain weight, most public health professionals and organizations strongly disapprove of this diet.

Although it has been reported that this diet has been surprisingly effective, skeptics have pointed out the several drawbacks.

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The restrictions of carbohydrates produces ketones in the body and bloodstream, resulting in fat breakdown, a build up of ketones eventually causes ketosis, which gives one bad breath. If ketones accumulate within the blood then the dieter will experience headaches and nausea. The sudden drop in carb intake has a variety of side effects. Common ones during the first few days are: dizziness, nausea, constant headaches and faintness. This is the main reason why there is a high drop out rate at the start of the diet.

Supporters of the diet claim that its purpose is to control food cravings and make the dieter feel better mentally and physically over a period of time. Another benefit that most people report is increased mental alertness, no more feeling sleepy after a meal.

It’s untrue to say that people don’t lose weight on this diet, but

Is there some magical phenomenon that occurs in the body when high carbohydrate foods are abolished? No. The Atkins diet essentially eliminates several foods and food groups like fruits, cereals, breads, grains, starches, baked goods, dairy products, starchy vegetables, and sweets. This simply translates into a significant daily calorie reduction – the basis of any weight loss diet.

Many people become instantaneously hooked on the Atkins plan due to an initial rapid weight loss, but the initial weight loss doesn’t

Come from body fat, it comes from water. This is because carbohydrates are significantly restricted on this diet; therefore the body runs short on its constant supply of glucose the breakdown product of carbohydrate. The body stores emergency glucose known as glycogen, for every one gram of glycogen the body stores, it must store with it three grams of water. The body will begin to break down these glycogen stores to obtain glucose for energy. Therefore when glycogen gets broken down water is released and excreted (3 times as much as the amount of glycogen broken down).

This shows that the primary weight loss at the beginning of the diet is actually a lot of water and not fat, giving the dieter the illusion that they’re losing weight as fat rapidly.

The Atkins plan prohibits the hormone insulin (this is why carbohydrates are restricted), as it helps the body to store fat. Dr Robert Atkins claimed that carbohydrates overstimulate insulin production, triggering hunger and weight gain. Restricting carbohydrates will inhibit insulin production therefore putting an end to food cravings and gaining excessive weight.

On the other hand insulin is a vital substance as it enables our cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream and use it for energy. This gives us the ability to do everything from lifting a finger to running a marathon.

The idea that a high carbohydrate diet is responsible for obesity

(As Dr Robert Atkins claims) is completely contradicted by many population-based studies. For example in Japan, carbohydrates compose the overwhelming majority of daily caloric intake. Foods like rice, grains and vegetables consume a large proportion of their diet. High fat animal products is minimal, and Japan has one of the lowest rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes in the world. These facts completely contradict Atkins theory and prove that carbohydrates are not responsible for excessive weight gain.

The Atkins diet is definitely an advantage for obese people who have been unsuccessful in previous diets due to the restrictions on fatty foods, as it encourages plenty of fat.

In fact, studies have shown that people on a high protein, high fat, and low carb diet lose twice as much weight as those on a standard low fat diet recommended by most major health organizations (studies based on a period of 6 months).

Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and are high in fibre; these as well as other agents present in these foods help protect us from constipation and bowel cancer. Foods and vegetables are not allowed whilst on this diet; therefore the risks of bowel cancer are high.

Investigation indicates that a diet rich in animal fats tends to raise the levels of cholesterol and the related fats and lipids in the blood. Evidence strongly indicates that people with such high levels are more likely to develop atherosclerosis and heart attacks than those with lower levels. The Atkins diet promotes fat in their plan, this raises the level of cholesterol, and can lead to heart attacks and atherosclerosis (atherosclerosis impedes the flow of blood to organs).

Other studies have shown that meat heavy diets significantly increase ones risk of colon cancer and Osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis, bone condition characterized by a decrease in mass, resulting in bones that are more porous and more easily fractured than normal bones, and resulting in loss of height and a characteristic stoop. Fractures of the wrist, spine, and hip are most common; however, all bones can be affected. It is caused by a low intake of calcium.

Not only does the Atkins diet promote fat but also plenty of protein, although proteins are vital in a healthy balanced diet, an increase in the intake can lead to excessive calcium loss. In other words the more protein in your diet, the more calcium you lose in your urine. Because your bones are your largest source of stored calcium, there are concerns that the amount of protein eaten by people following the Atkins Diet (or any low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet) will increase the risk of osteoporosis. Nutritionists are also concerned that too much protein could also strain the kidneys.

It has recently been suggested that the Atkins diet has a big effect on epilepsy. In the absence of glucose, the body produces ketones, a chemical by-product of fat that can inhibit seizures. Most Patients on the Atkins plan (a type of ketgonic diet) who have remained seizure free for 2 years often can eat normally again, and in most cases, their seizures do not return.

The Atkins diet relies heavily upon proteins from meat, fish and other similar products. It is therefore a no-go area for vegetarians.

The moment the body starts losing weight, it lowers the metabolic rate to make it harder to shed further pounds. With any diet, about 60 per cent of people lose weight in the first few weeks but over the next few years 95 to 99 per cent regain all the weight they lose, and many put on even more. This shows that weight is just as easily gained as it is lost on this diet as with many other diets.

Diets may play a part in breast cancer. Studies indicate that girls who eat too much and take little or no exercise grow faster and reach puberty earlier, which is thought to increase breast cancer risk. Recent studies have not upheld an early hypothesis that fat content in the diet is involved in breast cancer. Therefore eating too much fat (as Atkins suggests) can double a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Studies have shown that people who eat most carbohydrates have less heart disease and that fibre found in carbohydrates may reduce bad cholesterol and reduce cancer risk.

Showing that the Atkins diet single goal is to make the dieter lose immediate weight and not think about the consequences it could lead to, or the long term effects of the diet.

In conclusion, I think the Atkins diet is way to lose weight quickly and effectively but not healthily. In my opinion the plan works simply because it reduces the amount of calories taken in, by eliminating several foods and food groups. The only reason why I think this diet is popular is because of the preliminary weight loss, which is not body fat but only a lot of water. I also think that the long term effects of this diet can be very dangerous; it can cause kidney strains, heart attacks and other disorders.

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