Is A Low-Carb, Atkins-Type Diet Safe?

Colleen's picture

The Atkins diet isn't quite as often heard about these days, now that Hoodia and the Acai berry have made their way onto the scene. But some people still treat the Atkins diet as the diet bible, and if you're interested in trying it, you should know the pro's and the con's.

The studies of the Atkins diet conflict with each other. Some suggest that the loss of weight is faster and the cholesterol levels improve, but these only indicate effects observed in the short term. Other studies have indicated that people on the Atkins diet lost less weight and regained a lot of it back when they stayed on the diet for a prolonged period of time.

The Atkins diet bases itself on consuming high fat, high protein foods like eggs and meat, while staying away from foods like starchy vegetables and grains. Typical Atkins dieters may eat up to a quarter of their daily diet in saturated fat. That's more than double what the American Heart Association recommends. So, it's not a mystery when health care providers worry over the Atkins diet.

Some of the negative effects of the Atkins diet include weakness, lack of energy, and in diabetics, it can cause ketosis, which is a serious reaction to inadequate carbs being taken in. Digestive problems include dehydration, nausea and constipation. Colorectal cancer is not literally linked to Atkins, but it is caused by under-consumption of foods like grains and other foods higher in good carbohydrates. Other side effects observed of people on the Atkins diet include inability to concentrate and headaches.

Northwestern University has an article on their website regarding the nutrition values of the Atkins diet. In this article, the university cites various health risks connected to Atkins diet users, including kidney stones, gout, osteoporosis, elevated cholesterol and cardiac problems. The college also reiterates the difficulty encountered when someone tries to stick with a diet which tries to eliminate simple carbs, including sweets – and other information with regards to the success of the diet when used beyond twelve months.

Dr. John McDougall feels that you can lose weight following the Atkins diet, although he also warns about the possible health dangers. He cites other health organizations who also express concerns about the Atkins diet, including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. These organizations express worry about the high-protein/high-fat diet. Dr. McDougall also lists other possible long term side effects including obesity, diabetes and strokes.

Many people who have used the Atkins diet look great, and suffer from no obvious ill effects. It is important, though, to look closely at the negative effects. There hasn't been enough research done to show how effective and safe the diet is in the long term. If you and your doctor don't have any qualms about the possible side effects, then go ahead and try the Atkins diet, to see how you do. People will be envious of you next summer on the beach, if it works for you.

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