Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet is probably the most well publicized low carbohydrate diet.  Dr. Robert Atkins began popularizing the Atkins Diet with his book, the Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution in 1972.  Dr. Atkins died in 2003, and in July, 2005 his company, Atkins Nutritionals, filed for bankruptcy protection.

Dr. Atkins believed that refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and flour, are converted by the body into fat, which leads to weight gain and eventually obesity.  He believed that excessive carbohydrates increases insulin levels, which causes food cravings and unstable blood sugar levels, which can cause mood swings, depression, and sleeping problems.  He believed that the Atkins Diet of reduced carbohydrates stabilizes insulin and blood sugar levels, eliminating cravings and often reducing appetite.

By restricting the intake of carbohydrates, the body’s metabolism switches from burning glucose to burning stored fat.  This process, called lipolysis, begins when the body enters the state od ketosis, because the body no longer has carbohydrates to burn.

Atkins restricts “net carbs”, or carbs that have an effect on blood sugar.  (To calculate net carbs, which Atkins believed are the only type of carbohydrates to have an effect on blood sugar, you take total carbohydrates and subtracts sugar alcohols and fiber).

In the first phase of the Atkins Diet, called the Induction phase, net carbs are limited to 20 grams per day, so that dieters eat meat, cheese and salad vegetables.  Caffeine and alcoholic beverages are not allowed.  During this phase weight loss can be as high as six to eight pounds a week.

After the first two weeks, dieters increase their net daily carbs by 5 grams per week, until they stop losing weight.  This allows the dieter to know at what carb level they will no longer lose weight.  Dieters can then reduce carbs until they have reached their weight loss goal.

The Atkins Diet works, because if you are only eating 20 grams of net carbs per day, you will lose weight, because you are also restricting the calories you are eating.

However, the Atkins Diet is expensive (since meat is expensive), and it is important to eat a balanced diet for long term health.  The restrictive nature of the diet make it hard for people to stick to long-term, which is why in recent years the popularily of the Atkins Diet has decreased.