The Visual Weight Loss System - VEEP

Diet Review: The Atkins Diet

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The Atkins diet was created by Dr. Robert Atkins, and was introduced in his 1972 book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.

Dr. Atkins promoted the idea that the main cause of obesity was related to the increased consumption of refined carbohydrates, especially from sources like sugar, flour, and high-fructose corn syrups.  Dr. Atkins also dismissed the notion that there was a need for limiting consumption of foods high in saturated fat, and only advised avoiding trans fats from sources such as hydrogenated oils.

The Atkins diet consists of four phases: introduction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance, and lifetime maintenance.  The intent of the phased system, which is highly managed and requires significant user participation and monitoring, is not just to lose weight, but more importantly to discover how eating carbohydrates affects each individual.  The phased system allows the dieter to eliminate, and then reintroduce carbohydrates over the phases, and from this process should be able to determine to what extent reduction and increases, as well as specific carbohydrates affect weight. 

The introduction, and most limiting of the phases, severely reduces the intake of carbohydrates, and is designed to cause the body to switch from burning glucose to burning stored body fat.  In this phase, the diet is dominated by meats, fish, and eggs; what little carbohydrates are allowed is to come from green vegetables.

The next phase, called the Ongoing Weight Loss phase, continues until the dieter is within 10 pounds of their ideal weight.  The Ongoing Weight Loss phase allows for a greater intake of carbohydrates, but still at diminished levels allowing for continued weight loss.  The goal of the Ongoing Weight Loss phase is to learn how newly introduced food groups affects cravings.  The next phase, called the pre-maintenance phase, introduces more carbohydrates with the intention of discovering the limit at which an individual will gain weight or as Dr. Atkins calls it, the “Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance.”  The final phase, the Lifetime maintenance phase, is the concluding result of the other three phases, which should have taught appropriate habits in eating as well as an individualized understanding of carbohydrates effect on the body.

    Dr. Atkins advanced the idea that restricting carbohydrates switches the body’s metabolism from burning glucose to burning stored body fat, or lipolysis.  Dr. Atkins urged restricting carbohydrates that effect blood sugar, or “net carbs” so as to decrease the onset of hunger from low blood sugar.  Net carbs are calculated by removing sugar alcohols and fiber from the carbohydrate total.  Sugar alcohols and fiber have both been shown to have little to no effect on blood sugar level, hence there exclusion.

    Dr. Atkins promoted eating whole foods that were unprocessed and low on the glycemic index.  The glycemic index (GI) measures the effects of carbohydrates on blood glucose (or blood sugar).  Carbohydrates that break down quickly, such as white bread, candy and other sugary or processed foods, are considered high GI.  Carbohydrates that break down slowly, such as most fruit, vegetables, and grains, are considered low GI.  Recent research evidence suggests that consumption of high GI carbohydrates are associated with increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.