Atkins Diet

March 14, 2016

What is the Atkins Diet?

In 1972, cardiologist Roger C. Atkins, MD, published Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, which was followed in later years by a series of newer versions and cookbooks. The latest updated version, Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution includes the diet that people interested in this approach should follow. The Atkins diet was among the earliest of a series of diets which dramatically reduce carbohydrate intake, control calories, and also recommend some daily exercise—even moderate forms like walking—as an effective element for weight loss and control. Exercise is not required, but strongly recommended in the Atkins plan. The Atkins diet is still widely used because it is accessible and generally helps people to lose weight, relatively quickly, and if they stick to the recommendations, to keep excess weight off.

Four Phases of the Atkins Diet

The Atkins diet includes four phases beginning with the elimination of nearly all carbohydrates and anything that includes added sugar for approximately two weeks. The subsequent three phases gradually broaden the diet to inclucutting-meat-19578277de some carbohydrates at a rate of about 10 grams of carbohydrates per week in the later phases until a weight goal is reached. At that point a maintenance diet is recommend. The diet does include up to two snacks a day, which helps control some cravings. Those following the diet are expected to measure their carbohydrate and overall calorie intake, and to drink adequate amounts of water.

This diet allows for consumption of high levels of animal protein and fats, though there is a vegetarian version that includes plant protein sources—so it is not just a ‘high meat’ diet, which is an often-voiced criticism. Rapid initial weight loss is common, and is due both to calorie reduction and through ketosis, a state where the body burns fat, rather than carbohydrates and sugars. The temporary side effects of ketosis may include nausea, mental fatigue, headaches and bad breath. It is also a diet that should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women. People with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, should talk with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, including this one.

Does the Atkins Diet work?leafy lettuce

Short answer: yes, if you stick with it. Diets excessively high in fat can be a worry for people who are already fat. And while care should be taken not to go overboard with the consumption of things like bacon, full-fat ice cream, etc., healthy fats are an integral part of nutrients that we all require, and so eliminating them is not wise either.

Research using carefully controlled comparisons conducted with people who are already experiencing serious health problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome risks, have been conducted on many low carbohydrate diets including the Atkins diet. Many direct, controlled comparisons between low-carbohydrate diets and low fat diets have been completed and they reveal that low carbohydrate diets nearly always show weight loss well beyond that experienced by participants who are just on low fat diets.

Diets that are low in carbohydrates and higher in protein and fat usually lead to feeling satiated, so people don’t eat as much or feel hungry quite so quickly between meals. Both of these kinds of diets lead to reduced caloric intake—and weight loss. But it happens faster, and may last longer for people who reduce carbohydrate intake than for those who strictly reduce fat intake yet take in roughly the same amount of calories.

A concise review [1] of the findings published in 23 peer review journals (which included studies of the Atkin’s diet among them) concluded that when low-carbohydrate and low fat diets are compared, people not only lose significantly more weight much faster on low carbohydrate diets, but that no adverse effects were reported for either form of diet. Blood pressure tends to drop in both types of diets. In research where people actually follow the low carbohydrate diet very closely to the end of the study, blood sugars can drop well below the level that require diabetics to use medication. Slightly more people were also found to adhere to low carbohydrate diets, probably because they reduce hunger due to adequate fat and protein intake. Where diets are unsatisfying, people often abandon the study because they lose motivation to continue. On that basis, low carbohydrate diets are superior, but faster weight loss can also be highly motivational on its own.

Overall, since low carbohydrate diets (including the Atkins diet) are effective and include no serious adverse effects, they have much to recommend them for most people, most of the time.

[1] Gunnars, Kris, (July 2015)

Lifestyle Diets

March 12, 2016

Introduction to Lifestyle Diets

Lifestyle diets are directed at transforming eating patterns over the long term, rather than fast short-term weight loss, which ultimately just doesn’t work. Lifestyle diets are meant to restore healthy attitudes towards foods, as well as healthy habits, and have the added benefit of more gradual weight loss for people who are overweight, or even obese.They have been widely used, so there are lots of online groups to consult, and chat rooms where you can see how others are doing. Most diets work best with the support of others in some form of community.

The lifestyle diets we summarize include:

  • Paleolithic (Paleo) Diet
  • Mediterranean Diet
  • South Beach Diet
  • Atkins Diet

The diets we review all have certain benefits—some more than others—but each of them has been around for awhile, and so some of the successes and problems associated with each of them are well known. They are all still popular to some degree. If there are clinical controlled studies conducted over time, we will describe some of them so you can get a good idea of whether or not they will work for you in ways that might last. Not all diets have been carefully studied in an unbiased way though. Some diets that claim to be well supported by research either rely on anecdotal information or include a heavy dose of self-interest, or even an apparent conflict of interest on the part of the researchers. We avoid citing those studies that are not controlled, or were conducted by people who have a financial/professional interest in promoting them.

There are many variants of each of these diets that ‘tweak’ them to emphasize one aspect or another. So if you are mainly interested in anti-inflammatory properties of the Paleo Diet or the Mediterranean Diet, for example, you can focus on that. If lowering triglycerides and dealing with insulin resistance is important, then another part of the diet may prove most beneficial. Our descriptions are just places to begin.

leafy lettuceAfter reviewing the diets, you might find one that suits your own special goals, and then start investigating it further. You should ask yourself :

  • how difficult (or easy) will it be to stick to a particular diet?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How accessible are the foods?
  • Do you actually like them?
  • Can you prepare the foods yourself?
  • Can you find them when you go out to dinner?
  • Can you purchase them from outlets in prepared form?

After all, you don’t want to make things worse in the end because you can’t find the food, or afford it, and just don’t like it.


Accessibility is not always just a matter of going to a supermarket. If you can join a ‘farm to table’ purchase cooperative, you might be able to save a lot of money on seasonal vegetables that would make a diet with lots of fresh vegetables both accessible and affordable. Maybe you can get them delivered right to your home. If you have a friend or relative who fishes or is a hunter, then perhaps the Paleo diet wouldn’t actually cost you so very much. The main point is to do some thinking about these things before you start.

This site does not deal with illness related diets such as those for persons with serious food allergies, acute illnesses, or for those undergoing drug treatments like chemotherapy, or recovery from surgery or injury. Such diets are best worked out in partnership with health care specialists who deal with these highly specific areas.