The Atkins Diet is also known as the Atkins Nutritional Approach. It was created by Dr. Robert Atkins, an American cardiologist.
Dr. Atkins read about a diet in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) and devised one in order to reduce his own weight. He then used his devised diet to help his patients.
About Dr. Atkins
Dr. Atkins graduated from the University of Michigan in 1951 and received his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in 1955 – he went on to specialize in cardiology and complementary medicine.
Robert Atkins wrote a series of books; Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolutionwas his first book and was written in 1972. Later books revised his original specifications – however, he never moved far from the original concepts of low carbohydrates (carbs) and insulin control.
On 8th April, 2003, Dr. Atkins slipped on ice while on his way to work – he fell and hit his head on the ground, causing bleeding around his brain. He became unconscious on the way to hospital and died in hospital after two weeks in an ICU (intensive care unit).
What is the Atkins Diet?
The thrust of the Atkins Nutritional Approach is to significantly reduce one’s carbohydrate (carbs) intake. The craze for low carbs comes mainly from the popularity of the Atkins’ books. The Atkins diet is a four-phase eating program, combined with vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as regular exercise.
Dr. Atkins said there are crucial unrecognized factors in our eating habits which make us fat. The main factor that causes us to put on weight is our consumption of refined carbs, especially sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and flour.
When on the Atkins Diet, the dieter’s body’s metabolism switches from burning glucose as fuel to burning its own stored body fat – this switching is called ketosis. When our glucose levels are low our insulin levels are low. Ketosis kicks in when our insulin levels are low. In other words, when our glucose levels are low our bodies switch to using our own stores of fat as a source of energy.
Our insulin levels, because of our low glucose levels, are low just before we eat. As soon as we eat our glucose levels rise, which triggers our insulin levels to rise. Refined carbohydrates are full of glucose which enters our blood rapidly.
Other types of carbs, what we call “good carbs” do not have such a strong impact on blood glucose levels, compared to refined carbs. During ketosis, some of the fat (lipid) stores in fat cells are transferred to the blood (lipolysis).
According to Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution1, a diet which is low in carbs triggers a metabolic advantage – the body burns more calories than it would on other diets. During this metabolic advantage the body also gets rid of some unused calories.
Dr. Atkins talked a lot about Net Carbs. Net carbs are the total carbs minus fiber and sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels. The best carbs, said Dr. Atkins, are those with a low glycemic load. Dr. Atkins also said that a person´s saturated fat intake should be kept to a maximum of 20% of all his consumed calories.
Atkins said that for patients with Diabetes Type 2 or metabolic syndrome, the Atkins diet lowers, and sometimes even eliminates the need for medications. However, professional diabetitians warn that although watching carbs and glucose intake are a vital part of diabetes care, the Atkins Diet is not a simple solution for diabetes.
What are the four phases to the Atkins Diet?
Phase 1: Induction
Calorie consumption from carbs limited to 20 grams each day. Carb sources are mainly from salad and vegetables which are low in starch.
Phase 2: OWL (Ongoing Weight Loss)
Nutrient-dense and fiber rich foods are added as additional carb sources, at an increased rate of 25 grams during the first week of this phase, 30 grams during the second week, and 30 grams each subsequent week until your weight stops going down. At that point – when weight loss stops – take away 5 grams of carbs from your daily intake until you are starting to lose weight slowly.
Phase 3: Pre-Maintenance
Increase your carb intake by 10 grams each week until your weight loss is very gradual.
Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance
Start adding a wider range of carb sources, while carefully monitoring your weight does not go up. Your sense of well-being must continue. If your weight starts to go up, ease back on two things – the amount of carbs you consume each day, and any of the new carbs you have been introducing. Dr. Atkins says that “this lifestyle is the foundation for a lifetime of better health”.
The four principles of the Atkins Diet
According to Dr. Atkins, the Atkins Diet has four principles which form the core of the Atkins Nutritional Approach. They are:
- You Will Lose Weight
- You Will Maintain Your Weight Loss
- You Will Achieve Good Health
- You Will Lay The Permanent Groundwork For Disease Prevention
How effective is the Atkins Diet?
If you stick to it, it is effective. You will lose weight and keep it off. The problem is sticking to it – compliance. During the early part of this decade approximately 10% of adults in the USA were on some kind of Atkins low carb diet. However,obesity and overweight continued to rise rampantly during this time.
The low-carb craze made virtually no dent at all in the fight against obesity – not nationally, anyway. The problem was not that low carbs or good carbs do not work – they do. The problem was, and still is, that people drop out of the diet, as they do with most other diets.
Study after study found that after two or three years, the vast majority of people who started well on Atkins did not continue long-term. In the medium-term the Atkins Diet tends to fare better than most other diets.
Researchers at Stanford University carried out a study and found that people following the Atkins diet had best blood pressure levels, better cholesterol levels and lost the most weight, compared to people on other diets.