Atkins diet- The way to go or not


                                                                      By- Dr.Panchali Moitra

The name ‘Atkins’ is sure to sound familiar to all weight loss seekers. While the advocates of the diet claim instant success, the opponents are concerned about the health consequences. So is Atkins the way to go or not? Let’s find out.

The Atkins diet, created by Dr. Robert Atkins is basically a low carbohydrate diet plan, which allows unrestricted intake of proteins such as meats, eggs, fish and cheese. The diet is based on the philosophy that if a person eats high amount of carbohydrates, it induces overproduction of the hormone insulin, which in turn results in increased hunger and thus an uncontrolled weight gain. Reducing the carbs drastically would initiate the process of ketosis (breaking down of the fat stores) to supply energy. The diet consists of 4 phases wherein the first phase (Induction Phase) encourages limitless intake of proteins and fats and restricts the carbs to only 20gm/day (as in a slice of bread).This is the stage which witnesses most significant weight loss, up to 2-5 kgs per week, when coupled with exercises. The subsequent stages of Ongoing weight loss, pre maintenance and maintenance phases however allow higher carb intake as the plan progresses.

The immense popularity of the Atkins diet may be attributed to the fact that it is easy to follow, allows people to eat protein and fats inhibitedly (these are usually restricted in traditional diets) and results in reduced food cravings (production of ketones suppress appetite) and rapid weight loss.

Nevertheless, the concept is not without its share of drawbacks and adverse effects.

  • Researchers have pointed out that overindulgence in proteins and fats, especially saturated fats may pose a great risk to heart ailments.
  • Overconsumption of high protein is bound to starin the kidney functions and lead to gout or renal disorders.
  •  The excess production of ketone bodies in low carb dieters tends to cause nausea, weakness, muscular cramps and electrolyte imbalance. Lack of fibre in the diet may also precipitate digestive complaints like constipation, etc.
  • Furthermore, it is now understood that the initial weight loss achieved on this diet is not because of any fat loss but a mere common phenomenon even with other diets, caused due to loss of water and reduction in stored glycogen reserves.

The verdict

While the idea of eating fat laden foods and to yet achieve weight loss might sound appealing, attaining health is not as simple. Our body needs all the macro nutrients namely carbohydrates, proteins and fats for performing basic body functions and cannot do with a strict avoidance of one. Carbohydrates are vital to maintain energy, proteins to build tissues and fats provide protective lining to every cell membrane of our body. The formula for attaining weight loss and maintaining good health lies in having 40% of our daily caloric intake from complex carbohydrates, 40% from lean proteins like fish, pulses and the remaining 20% from good fats (unsaturated fatty acids as in olive oil, nuts, flaxseeds).This combination helps to attain weight loss goals naturally without any adverse health consequences, boosts metabolism and also promotes general health.

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