DR. ATKINS’ DIET REVOLUTION1

A phenomenally popular diet that swept the nation in the 1970s, the Atkins Diet is still being used today. That’s a shame, for in my opinion it is nutritionally unsound and potentially dangerous. Atkins claims that most overweight people suffer from metabolic imbalances cause by a carbohydrate intolerance. His solution is to eliminate carbohydrates altogether during the diet, then keep them cut way down permanently. Promising that you will not be hungry, Atkins encourages you to cut back on carbohydrates, not calories. You can eat to your heart’s content, he asserts, because when you eliminate carbohydrates from the diet, your desire for food is diminished.

Atkins and others who promote high-protein diets are simply trotting out an old idea devised by a Victorian-era doctor. According to the high-protein proponents, the high protein/low carbohydrate diet is supposed to force the body to rid itself of stored fats faster than usual. What really happens is that the poorly metabolized fatty acids (called ketones) that result from this diet cause you to urinate greater amounts of body water, along with magnesium, potassium, and other important minerals. It may seem like you’re losing weight, but that weight is quickly replaced when you take a drink. It’s all smoke and mirrors—you think you’re losing a lot of weight but you’re really not. And meanwhile, all those ketones in your bloodstream can harm your health.

Another dangerous aspect of the high-protein diets is bone loss (osteoporosis). Thinning of the bones, commonly caused by loss of calcium, is a common problem for seniors, especially

elderly women. Thinned bones are more likely to fracture under pressure. Even a very slight touch is all it takes to crack the bones of some osteoporosis victims. High-protein diets cause us to lose dangerously high amounts of calcium in the urine. Not only that, but the excess sulfur and nitrogen from the proteins can literally leach calcium right out of bones.

The diet promises that you can eat luxuriously—heavy cream, butter, mayonnaise, cheeses, meats, fish, fowl. A small amount of these foods can add flavor to the diet, as well as certain nutrients, but to base a diet on these high-protein, high-fat foods is folly. Even Dr. Atkins admits that his program is unbalanced. This diet revolution is, in the author’s own words, “deliberately unbalanced … to counteract the metabolic imbalances that cause people to get fat in the first place.” He’s right about the first part, the diet is unbalanced and filled with potentially dangerous amounts of fat. Eliminating carbohydrates from the diet and replacing them with protein and fat can only encourage heart disease, cancer, and a host of other ailments. As for the second part about metabolic imbalances causing obesity, well, relatively few of us are overweight because of metabolic imbalances. I tell my patients to read the Atkins and other high-protein diet books, if they want, then do the exact opposite. The best approach is to eat plenty of complex carbohydrates (found especially in fresh vegetables and whole grains) and reduce your fat intake by sensible eating coupled with Chitosan. That’s the basis for healthy weight loss and healthy living.

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