The Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet

The Atkins diet, officially called the Atkins Nutritional Approach, is a low-carbohydrate diet created by Dr Robert Atkins from a diet he read in the Journal of the American Medical Association and used to resolve his own overweight condition. He later popularized the Atkins diet in a series of books, starting with Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution in 1972. In his revised book, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, he modified or changed some of but remained faithful to the original concepts.

Atkins franchise, a business formed to provide products to those individuals on the diet, was highly successful due to the popularity of the diet, and is considered the driving entity of the larger "low-carb craze" [2] during the early millennium. However its success dwindled and Atkins Nutritionals of Ronkonkoma, New York, the company founded by Dr. Atkins in 1989, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2005, two years after his death. The company re-emerged in January 2006, and the Atkins logo is still highly visible through licensed-proprietary branding for food products and related merchandise.

Nature of the diet

The Atkins Diet is a departure from the previously prevailing metabolic theories. Atkins said that there are important unrecognized factors in Western eating habits leading to obesity. Primarily, he believed that the main cause of obesity is eating refined carbohydrates, particularly sugar, flour, and high-fructose corn syrups.

The Atkins Diet involves restriction of carbohydrates to more frequently switch the body's metabolism from burning glucose as fuel to burning stored body fat. This process (called ketosis) begins when insulin levels are low; in normal humans, insulin is lowest when blood glucose levels are low (mostly before eating). Caloric carbohydrates (e.g., glucose or starch (itself made of chains of glucose)) produce most of the blood sugar after meals and can be calculated to even determine the insulin needs of diabetics. Because of its low digestibility, fiber provides little or no food energy and does not significantly impact glucose and insulin levels. Ketosis involves lipolysis in which some of the lipid stores in fat cells are transferred to the blood.

In his book Dr Atkins' New Diet Revolution, Dr. Atkins made the controversial argument that the low-carbohydrate diet produces a metabolic advantage in which the body burns more calories, overall, than on normal diets, and also expels some unused calories. He cited one study where he estimated this advantage to be 950 calories (4.0 MJ) a day. However, a review study published in the Lancet concluded that there was no such metabolic advantage and dieters were simply eating fewer calories due to boredom. Professor Astrup stated, "The monotony and simplicity of the diet could inhibit appetite and food intake" The Atkins Diet restricts "net carbs" (digestible carbohydrates that impact blood sugar). One effect is a tendency to decrease the onset of hunger, perhaps due to longer duration of digestion (fats and proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates). Dr. Atkins says in Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution (2002) that hunger is the number one reason why low-fat diets fail. Although studies show the efficacy of the Atkins approach after one year is the same as some low-fat diets, it was easier, according to Atkins, to stay on the diet because dieters did not feel as hungry or "deprived".

Net carbohydrates can be calculated from a food source by subtracting fiber and sugar alcohols (which are shown to have a smaller effect on blood sugar levels) from total carbohydrates. Sugar alcohols contain about two calories per gram, and the American Diabetes Association recommends that diabetics count each gram as half a gram of carbohydrate. Fructose (e.g., as found in many industrial sweeteners) has four calories per gram, although it has a very low glycemic index and does not cause insulin production, probably because ß cells have low levels of GLUT5.

Preferred foods in all categories are whole, unprocessed foods with a low glycemic index, although restrictions for low glycemic carbohydrates (blackrice, vegetables, etc.) are the same as those for high glycemic carbohydrates (sugar, white bread). Atkins Nutritionals, the company formed to market foods which work with the Atkins Diet, recommends that no more than 20% of calories eaten while on the diet come from saturated fat.

According to the book Atkins Diabetes Revolution, for people whose blood sugar is abnormally high or who have Type 2 diabetes mellitus, this diet decreases or eliminates the need for drugs to treat these conditions. The Atkins Blood Sugar Control Program (ABSCP) is an individualized approach to weight control and permanent management of the risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Nevertheless, the causes of Type 2 diabetes remain obscure, and the Atkins Diet is not accepted in conventional therapy for diabetes.