Dr Atkins diet has been at the heart of heated controversy
in recent times.
On May 26, 2004 A Florida businessman filed suit against
the makers of Atkins diet, based on low carb recipes, as
opposed to rival diets which favor low fat recipes.
The businessman claimed as a consequence of following
Dr Atkins diet, he suffers from severe heart disease,
necessitating angioplasty and a stent. He is seeking a court
injunction banning Atkins Nutritionals from marketing its
products without a warning of potential health risks and
asks for compensatory damages.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
(PCRM, www.pcrm.org) reported that :"about 30 percent
of individuals on an Atkins diet experienced increases in LDL
(“bad”) cholesterol of at least 10 percent in a study published
May 18, 2004, in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Two study participants dropped out because of elevated
cholesterol levels and a third developed chest pain and
was subsequently diagnosed with coronary heart disease."
High protein low carb recipes based diets such as Dr Atkins
diet have been criticized by major health organizations
including the American Heart Association, the American
Dietetic Association, and the American Kidney Fund.
The Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition,
Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart
Association states, “High-protein diets are not recommended
because they restrict healthful foods that provide essential
nutrients and do not provide the variety of foods needed to
adequately meet nutritional needs. Individuals who follow
these diets are therefore at risk for compromised vitamin
and mineral intake, as well as potential cardiac, renal, bone,
and liver abnormalities overall.”
The PCRM also says they have received more than 560
complaints of illnesses and fatalities allegedly related to
Atkins-type diets - low carb recipes - through an on-line
registry...including more than two dozen reports of
potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and the
reported death of a 16-year-old girl in Missouri who was
following a low carb diet
According to PCRM President Neal Barnard, M.D Atkins diet
proponents "push dieters to avoid healthy foods, like rice,
beans, and pasta, while ignoring the risks of high-cholesterol,
high-fat meat and cheese. The idea that cholesterol and
saturated fat don’t matter is a dangerous myth.”
In additon to CHD - coronary heart disease - Atkins diet has
also been blamed for a number of other "atrocities", such as:
colon cancer, impaired kidney function, osteoporosis,
complications of diabetes, and to cap it all: constipation,
headache, bad breath, muscle cramps, diarrhea, general
In an article titled: "Low Carb Diet Truth - Why Atkin's Low
Carb Diet Doesn't Work", Keith Klein (www.ineedcarblo.com)
notes that "Low carb diets don't produce long-term results.
These diets do not work, and are bad for the health."
Also, "In the case of the low-carb diet, the down-side
outweighs the up-side by a huge margin.
A problem that adds to the confusion is the simple fact that
cutting back on carbohydrates works, at least for a quick
drop in body fat and body water.
The piece of the puzzle missing for most dieters is the
long-term effects on the body due to such a drastic
reduction in carbohydrates."
To solve the long-term effects problem, low-carb diets
such as the South Beach Diet introduce carbohydrates after
the 14 days initial phase.
But what does the other side say? As expected, we hear
a totally different story.
One of the most articulate of the Atkins diet defenders is
Anthony Colpo (www.theomnivore.com).
Here is a quick summary of his "6 myths" article:
1. Coronary heart disease (CHD)
If you want to maximize your chances of avoiding CHD,
a diet high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, a low glycemic
load, and regular consumption of omega-3 fats,
appears to be just what Dr Atkins diet recommends.
A low carb diet based on paleolithic food choices, that is,
a diet based on free-range animal products and low
carbohydrate, low-glycemic plant foods, fits the bill quite
nicely. So go ahead, eat your steak and salad!
2. Low-Carbohydrate Diets Contain Too Much Fat, and
Fat Makes You Gain Weight
Some folks have been so inculcated with the simplistic
"fat makes you fat" theory that they just cannot believe
a diet high in fat can lead to a loss of bodyfat.
The fact is, high fat diets can result in spectacular fat loss
- as long as carbohydrate intake is kept low. Eat a diet that
is high in both fat and carbohydrate and your bodyfat
percentages will head north real quick!
The Standard Western Diet (SWD) is typically high in
both fat and carbohydrate - and often leads to obesity.
3. Low-carb, High-Protein Diets cause Osteoporosis
A review of the research in this area shows that high
protein intake, in the presence of alkalinising fruit and
vegetable intake and adequate calcium intake, either has
no adverse affect on bone mass or has a positive affect
on bone mass.
We can see that a low-carbohydrate, high fat, high protein
diet is a far better choice for building strong bones than
a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.
It ensures adequate intake of protein; it replaces
acid-forming, phytate-containing grains and legumes with
alkalinising fruits and vegetables; and the fat content of
such a diet assists the absorption of fat-soluble
bone-building vitamins like Vitamin D and K.
4. High-Protein Diets Cause Kidney Disease
Bodybuilders and strength athletes have been consuming
high-protein diets for decades. Given the widespread global
participation in these activities, if the claims of kidney
damage were true, by now there would be an enormous
number of case studies of ex-bodybuilders and strength
athletes afflicted with kidney disease.
Needless to say, this is not the case.
A comparison of healthy subjects eating 100g or more
of protein per day with long-term vegetarians eating 30g
or less of protein per day concluded that both groups had
similar kidney function. The subjects were aged 30-80 and
both groups displayed similar progressive deterioration of
kidney function with age.
Individuals with healthy kidney function have little to fear
from higher levels of protein consumption.
5; Low-Carbohydrate Diets Put You In Ketosis, And Ketosis
First of all, it should be pointed out that not all low-carb diets
induce ketosis. Carbohydrates can be restricted, but not
necessarily to the point where ketosis is induced (daily
carbohydrate intake of 50g or less seems to be a reliable
If carbohydrate intake is kept low enough however, one
eventually enters a state known as ketosis, characterised
by a measurable increase of ketones in the bloodstream.
Ketones are an intermediate product of fat breakdown,
and are an alternative source of energy to glucose.
Ketosis indicates a heightened state of fat-burning.
Contrary to the alarmist claims of some critics, there is
nothing dangerous about ketosis. One of the more
important functions of ketones is to serve as an alternative
fuel source for the brain - contrary to the claims of some
that the brain can only use glucose for fuel.
Despite the hype, healthy people have little to fear from
ketosis - unless they have a strong aversion to losing fat!
6; Low Carb Diets Are An Unproven Fad!
This has to be the most ridiculous criticism of all,
especially when one considers its source.
The human species has been eating a meat-based diet
for 2.4 million years, and analysis of the diets consumed
by recent hunter-gatherer societies (the best available
surrogate for paleolithic nutrition) shows that plant foods
comprised, on average, one-third of daily food intake -
the rest was derived from animal products.
What's more, the bulk of these plant foods were low-glycemic,
low-carbohydrate items such as nuts, seeds, wild fruits and
Carbohydrate-rich cereal grains did not appear in any
meaningful quantity in the human diet until the onset of the
agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago.
Humans evolved on meat-based, low to moderate carbohydrate
nutrition, meaning that low carbohydrate diets are far more in
accordance with man's genetic evolution than the low-animal
fat, high carbohydrate nonsense that is currently espoused
by mainstream authorities.
The anti-animal fat, high carbohydrate diet concept is
a mere 4 decades old, nothing more than a speculative
construct of mid-twentieth century researchers who were at
a loss to explain the high prevalence of CHD in modernized
While the paleolithic diet kept the human species thriving for
over two-million years, the track record of the high-carbohydrate,
grain-based diet movement is atrocious - their persistent,
fanatical rantings against animal fats have been remarkably
successful in driving people towards vegetable fats and
carbohydrate-rich foodstuffs, the increasing consumption
of which has been accompanied by alarming increases in the
incidence of obesity and Type-2 diabetes
And here is his conclusion, which I quote as is:
"Those criticising low-carbohydrate diets often do so under
false pretenses. They unfairly equate high-carb, high-fat diets
with low-carb, high-fat diets, even though they have vastly
different metabolic effects.
Another tactic employed by such critics is to create fear of
possible adverse effects, which upon closer inspection only
concern individuals with certain metabolic defects. As we have
seen, this tactic is applied to claims of kidney damage and
ketoacidosis, even though there is no evidence that
low-carbohydrate diets initiate these ailments.
Indeed, hypertensive kidney damage and ketoacidosis are
complications of diabetes, a disease associated with
excessive carbohydrate intake.
Years ago, I believed the high-carbohydrate propaganda
and followed a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet. When it
became apparent that this diet was not conducive to optimal
health and performance, I had no choice but to experiment.
Through trial and error I adopted a paleolithic-style
low-carbohydrate diet. The result has been a marked
improvement in energy, mental focus, blood sugar control,
and an ability to maintain year round single-digit body-fat levels.
I encourage all my personal training clients to follow
low-carbohydrate nutrition, and those who take my advice
invariably experience benefits similar to my own."
There you are, with the pro and cons of Atkins diet.
About the author:
Drawing from his 30-year experience as a medical translator, teacher, traveler, musician, writer, deep multicultural awareness plus worldwide ancient spiritual traditions, A.M.Sall helps people
"turn all their living days into quality time" in his self-development community at: http://www.health-beauty-wellness.com
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