Dr. Robert C. Atkins, a cardiologist, began studying a controlled carbohydrate approach to eating in 1963 after becoming troubled by the increasing obesity problem he noticed in his patients. The Atkins Diet was launched in 1972 and is based on the theory that limiting refined carbs from your diet helps you burn fat instead of burning carbs. People on this diet substitute proteins and fats for carbs and go through three phases until they reach a final lifelong maintenance phase. People have had success losing weight with the Atkins Diet, but many people also experience side effects.
Early Phase Side Effects
Drastically cutting carbs from your diet can cause headache, dizziness, weakness, fatigue and constipation, according to MayoClinic.com. Constipation is a particularly common problem that occurs from consuming less fiber and more protein. To help prevent nutritional deficiencies, people on the Atkins Diet need to take supplements or add some high fiber carbs and whole grains to their diet. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, supplements only partially remedy nutrient deficiencies from lack of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
The Atkins Diet puts your body into a ketosis state; ketone levels in the blood are elevated, which causes your body to burn fat instead of carbs, resulting in weight loss. People who have Type 1 diabetes, alcoholism or who are starving can also enter ketosis. Ketosis is not necessarily an undesirable side effect unless it results in ketone levels becoming too high. Then, you are at risk for damaging your liver and kidneys, developing kidney stones and developing osteoporosis. To keep your ketosis at a safe level, you can monitor it using a urine dipstick method.
When you enter the maintenance phase of the Atkins Diet, you may be at risk for heart disease because your LDL cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, is raised from having too much high saturated fat in your diet. The concern, according to Dr. Michael Miller of the University of Maryland Medical Center’s cardiology department, is that while weight loss is good for heart health, maintaining the Atkins Diet while not losing weight becomes detrimental to the heart because you are consuming too much saturated fat.
Atkins is Restrictive
The Atkins Diet restricts participants from eating certain foods. This restricts calories to help with weight loss, but it restricts nutrients, too. Many people on the Atkins Diet do not even eat the allowable carbs, choosing to focus on meats and fats, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. This diet may also affect bone mass because high-protein diets increase calcium excretion through the urine; however, no studies as of August 2011 have proven a relationship.
- Atkins: Thoughtful Approach. Powerful Science.
- MayoClinic.com; Atkins Diet: What's Behind the Claims?; July 2011
- Medical News Today: What Is Ketosis? What Causes Ketosis?
- Drugs.com; Atkins Diet Can Raise Heart Risks; November 2007
- American Academy of Family Physicians; Atkins' Diet -- Discussion Paper; Rebecca K. Kirby; 2005