Pros and Cons of Atkins Diet

Few diets have ever been more controversial than the Atkins Diet Plan. First introduced by Dr. Robert Atkins in 1972, the plan severely restricts consumption of carbohydrates in the form of bread, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables. The diet espouses the theory that carbohydrates increase blood sugar levels, releasing insulin. Insulin then prevents fat from breaking down in the body. Consequently, you will not burn fat or lose weight. While many tout the success of following such a restrictive diet plan, it is widely questioned by critics who deem it unhealthy.

A plate of eggs, bacon and sausage. (Image: CharlieAJA/iStock/Getty Images)

Eat Fat, Lose Weight

High-fat foods such as steak, bacon, butter and cream that are forbidden on most low-calorie or low-fat diets are not only allowed, but encouraged on the Atkins plan.

No Hunger Pangs

As long as followers of the Atkins plan stick to "permitted" foods, there is no set limit to how much they can eat. Also, restricting the number of carbohydrates keeps blood sugar levels stable, so there are fewer in-between-meals hunger pangs.

Quick Results

Those who follow the plan closely report quick and significant weight loss, particularly during induction, the first and most restrictive phase. The quick success motivates them to stay on the diet.

Long-Term Results

Although dieters often see quick results from the Atkins plan, particularly during the induction phase, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that after a year, there is no significant difference in weight loss between those who followed the Atkins plan and those who followed a low-calorie diet. Additionally, the study found that dieters were no more likely to stick to a low-carb plan after a year than they were to a low-calorie or low-fat diet.

Health Risks

The Atkins diet emphasizes foods high in protein; however, foods high in protein may also be high in fat. Too much fat increases "bad" LDL cholesterol. Additionally, the diet limits or restricts fruits and vegetables, depriving dieters of the fiber essential for digestion, which may lead to chronic bowel disease. Limiting consumption of many fruits and vegetables also deprives dieters of antioxidants that help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Warning

Consult your doctor before starting any diet program.

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