Wednesday 29th January 2020


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Atkins Diet

"The Atkins diet is anything but health-promoting."
This was said by Doctor Robert Eckel of the University of Colorado's Center for Human Nutrition in Denver and of the American Heart Association, who is worried that whoever follows the Atkins diet or other low-carb diet plans won't eat enough grains, fruits and vegetables, which practically all medical authorities consider as an essential part of a healthy diet.

The popularity of diets is an obvious consequence of the large percentage of people in the West who are classified from overweight to obese, percentage still increasing.
Diets, or at least quick fix, fast diets, are attracting great numbers of people because they look like an easy solution.

Many kinds of diets are experiencing a boom, but especially the fast diets, the ones that promise people to help lose their weight without much effort, or even actually indulging in the foods they like.
A diet of this type, one of the most extreme low-carbs diets, is the one proposed by Dr. Robert Atkins, the best-selling author of Dr. Atkins' Age-Defying Diet Revolution (Amazon USA) or Amazon UK and Dr. Atkin's Diet Revolution (Amazon USA) Weight Loss Diet Books) , the latter then reprinted as Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution (Amazon UK) .

His theory is that, guess what, a low-carbohydrate high-protein nutrition is beneficial. This idea actually turns the principles of the healthy-eating pyramid (with lots of carbohydrates, a little protein and minimum fat) on their head. He also adds a series of vita-super nutrients to his nutrition plan. The Atkins diet allows its followers to derive up to two-thirds of their calories intake from fat, which is more than double the medical recommendation. Atkins claimed that carbohydrates lead to the production of excessive insulin, which causes people to be hungrier with consequent weight gain.

On these claims a multibillion-dollar industry has been founded.

Robert Atkins is not the first to have had the idea of a low-carb diet. In 1864 the English casket maker William Banting published a book entitled Letter on Corpulence (Amazon USA) or Amazon UK , the first successful dieting manual ever, in which he recommended a diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein, with the addition of a good dose of booze, as a recipe to lose weight.

It's easy to see why this diet, although in decline since its heyday, is still so popular: it recommends people to eat what they like, sparing them to feel it may be bad for their health.

In fact, the general medical community is unfavorable to the Atkins Diet, which has been condemned by major health authorities as a highly dangerous cocktail of all the worst possible nutritional advice.

Many leading medical and health organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association (ADA), and the American Diabetes Association oppose it.

This high protein low carb diet has been rejected by major medical and nutrition experts and associations, including the U.S. government in its many bodies, among which the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Agriculture and others. The Atkins Diet has been described as dangerous particularly for women, because it depletes the calcium stores of the body, leading to calcium deficiency.

In the UK, more than 97 percent of state-registered dieticians in a survey condemned the Atkins Diet and said it gave "bad dietary advice". Dieticians warn that this diet could in reality prevent weight loss in the long term, something which may be confirmed by the fact that Atkins himself, who followed his own diet, died obese. Although there is controversy over the cause of his obesity, the fact that he had a heart condition is undisputed.

Atkins' family and colleagues said that his cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, was of viral origin and not related to his diet, but in fact dilated cardiomyopathy, from which he suffered for 3 years before his death, can be caused by dietary deficiencies, and in most cases of the disease the particular cause from which it developed is never found out. Atkins, a year before dying, suffered a cardiac death requiring resuscitation.

And the puzzling thing is: if his family are so sure that his weight and heart problems are not related to his diet, why did they refuse to allow a medical examiner to carry out an autopsy on Dr Atkins' body? It is surely something that he would have wanted, given his firm convinction about the benefits of his diet to which he adhered, because a post-mortem examination of his body would have, in his opinion, provided some evidence of the long-term safety of his namesake diet. Obviously, the evidence could also have gone against his diet, which is the risk his family may have wanted to avoid.

Robert Atkins is not the first low-carb, high-protein diet book author to have died in circumstances that may raise doubts and bring into disrepute his diet. Irwin Stillman, who wrote The Doctor's Quick Weight Loss Diet (The Stillman Diet) (Amazon USA) or Amazon UK, read by 20 million Americans in 1967, died in 1975 of a heart attack.

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Atkins Diet explained

Atkins starts from the premise that not fat, but carbohydrates make you fat. His idea is that excessive weight is caused by a tired, slower metabolism, that makes overweight people gain weight with fewer calories than slim people. Carbohydrates increase the level of glucose in the blood, and make the pancreas secrete insulin. A diet high in carbs results in excessive insulin secretion, which eventually undermines the body's capacity to use insulin effectively to metabolize glucose and regulate energy consumption and consequently weight.

So, his argument goes, reduce carbs, increase protein and you'll fix your metabolism and as a result lose weight. Besides, he adds, men are supposed to eat meat and carbs are unhealthy: this has been the natural diet of man since the beginning of time.

Let's analyze these assertions for a minute. To say that it's carbs, like those found in grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables, that provoke hyperinsulinism (too much insulin) is wrong: overeating is the culprit. Our progenitors have eaten plenty of these foods for a long time without becoming fat. Traditionally, human populations around the globe have had high-carb grains as the staple foods of their diets: rice in Asia, wheat in Europe, corn (maze) in America. Civilizations were built on grains. Still today, rice is the main food of billions of people. But the only populations with high incidence of obesity are the largely meat-eating peoples, not the carb-eating ones.

So epidemiology, the study of human populations for biomedical research, does not agree with Atkins. Let's see if he is on better grounds in anthropology when he describes the early man's eating habits.

Our ancestors, like us, were omnivores, i.e. they were adapted to eat food of both animal and vegetable origin. There are differences in the various stages and ages of early men development, of course, but they were predominantly scavengers, eating what they could find, including fruit, carcasses of dead animals, nuts and insects.

Sometimes they would hunt and kill wildlife, but these were lean animals like wild fowl, antelopes and gazelles. Instead the species eaten by modern man, like cattle and pigs, are artificial animal species not existing in nature, created and unnaturally fattened by humans, so their meat is too rich in animal fat and unnaturally unhealthy.

Therefore, for Atkins to say that it's natural for man to eat meat is particularly ironic, given that the meat he recommends is far removed from the natural state, and to say that it's healthy for humans to consume this fat-heavy food which does not resemble anything our progenitors would have eaten doubles the absurdity of the first statement. If Atkins Diet is so natural to the human species as he proclaims, how is it that Atkins recommends taking supplements, such as a Dieters' Formula of no less than 31 vitamins and minerals in pills? The cavemen didn't have that.

Atkins says that the high incidence of type II diabetes in the US is due to carbohydrate consumption, and that when people develop diabetes they put on weight because insulin loses its capability to regulate metabolism in the right way. However, the opposite is true: it's lack of exercise and overeating not just carbs but also meat and animal fats that lead to excessive weight, which in turn causes type II diabetes. This is the hyperinsulinism mentioned by Atkins, too much insulin secreted by the pancreas in response to excess of food in the digestive system. So, the metabolism is indeed damaged in obese people, but by the fact that they are overweight, and not by their carbohydrates intake per se.

The strange thing is that the Atkins Plan works in the short term in making people lose weight fast if they don't care at all about getting seriously ill in the medium-to-long term. The diet's effect is similar to that of starvation: the body begins to burn fat in absence of carbohydrates to use for fuel. After just two weeks, ketosis occurs, a process which is the accumulation of ketones, acids like acetone made as byproducts of fat burning. Ketosis may become dangerous, resulting in brain dysfunction and even coma.

In the long run, this meat-heavy diet can have devastating consequences for the body. The high quantities of saturated fat and cholesterol from meat and animal products eventually increase the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol does not dissolve in blood, and it is carried in the bloodstream. When it becomes too much, it builds up on the walls of arteries. A hardened buildup causes arteries to become blocked or narrow, which in turn decreases blood supply of oxygen to vital organs, including the heart and the brain. This may lead to cardiovascular disease, a heart attack, or a stroke.


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