The Atkins Diet requires followers to drastically decrease their carbohydrate intake and eat more protein and fats. While you may lose weight initially, long-term side effects of this type of diet can include serious conditions such as gout, a common symptom of which is joint pain, according to Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension.
About the Atkins Diet
This diet is based on the idea that when cut out carbohydrates, your body uses fat for fuel, meaning you burn more calories and therefore lose more weight quickly. As a result, the Atkins Diet is typically high in protein and low in carbs.
How It Works
There are four phases of the Atkins Diet. The first is called Induction and requires you to drastically reduce your carb intake to 20 grams a day — compared with the average daily intake of 250 grams — to encourage your body to burn fat as fuel. You must avoid cakes and pastries and even bread, pasta and potatoes, but you can eat as much as you want of meat, dairy, eggs, cheese and fats. In the Ongoing Weight Loss and Pre-maintenances phases, you can slowly increase your carb intake, but it will still be lower than most people’s, and breads and pasta are still off-limits. In the final Lifetime Maintenance phase, you establish the diet and carb intake you should follow for life. This is around 90 grams a day and, while you can vary the types of carbs you eat, you will still only be getting around a third of the average daily carb intake.
Eating a high-protein, low-carb diet for a prolonged period can lead to a number of health conditions. In particular, increasing your intake of meat, poultry, eggs and nuts — all major components of the Atkins Diet — can lead to a buildup of uric acid in your bloodstream, which can cause gout, according to Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension. Gout is caused by the excess uric acid crystallizing in your joints, making them swollen and painful, according to the NHS Choices website for England’s National Health Service.
Other Side Effects
Under the Atkins Diet, your body is likely to produce more ketones, which can lead to a condition called ketosis, according to weightlossresources.co.uk. Ketones are produced as your body metabolises fat. Because your body is extremely low in carbohydrates and is burning more fat for fuel, these ketones build up and can cause bad breath, tiredness, insomnia, nausea and dizziness.
High-protein, low-carb diets are not recommended by the American Heart Association, The American Dietetic Association, the Surgeon General or the Food & Drug Administration. As well as joint pain, gout and ketosis, they can lead to constipation, due to the lack of fiber. In more serious cases, the high fat content can cause heart conditions and kidney problems. If you are considering this diet, check with your doctor first — especially if you are pregnant or have an underlying health condition.