Dr. Atkin’s diet is not recommended
When obesity began to assume epidemic proportions in America in the 1970’s, a number of special diets and nutritional programmes emerged that claimed to be healthy ways of losing weight and staying fit. Perhaps the most famous, most marketed and the most well known of all these diets was popularized by Dr. Robert Atkins and was commonly known as Dr, Atkins diet. The most radical and also controversial aspect of this diet was that it instructed people to cut down the carbohydrates in their diets drastically while intaking a fair amount of saturated fats. Though it became a national rage at that time, with people going for the Atkins diet left, right and center, but later the various ill effects of this diet began to emerge. This paper is based on these harmful side effects and shows why Atkins diet is not recommended for weight loss.
The Atkins diet is based on the principle that obesity is caused by hyperinsulinism i.e. the excessive secretion of insulin which is caused by consuming carbohydrates. Thus in Atkins diet, the intake of carbohydrates is restricted and the natural process of burning glucose to release energy is replaced by burning fat, mainly the stored fat. This process is called lipolysis and is triggered when the body enters a state of ketosis caused by severe deprivation of carbohydrates. On surface, it looks a safe and sensible way to loose weight. But the underlying harmful effects are stunning. Let us look at them one by one.
Naturally, ketosis is the result of illness or starvation. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. When carbohydrates are not available to the body, it tries to derive energy by an alternative process of burning fat. In this metabolic process, acidic substances called ketones are produced. These ketones need to be neutralized for normal body functionality. The body’s primary buffering system is the bones. Therefore, the bones begin to dissolve and this is the beginning of OSTEOPOROSIS. The second step involves a change in the physiology of the kidneys that results in the loss of this dissolved bone material through the urinary system. While passing through the urinary tract, some of this calcium solidifies and forms kidney stones. (J. Nutr. 128:1051, 1998; J Redriatr, 117.743, 1990).
When the duration of ketosis is increased, the kidneys and liver begin to give up the extra load put on them. as a result, blood acid levels rise by as much as 90% and higher levels of calcium are constantly passed in urine. Also ketosis is a state associated with starvation or severe illness. That is exactly how the body begins to look and feel. The gloss of skin and hair disappears; eyes become sunken and over all the body begins to age a lot faster. Mental functioning is also severely affected by ketosis. Lethargy, slow responses, constant nausea may be caused.
The Atkins diet recommends incorporating more animal foods in the diet. But medical studies show that there is a direct link between animal products and high incidence of cancer. Studies by the National Cancer Institute and by the Archives of Internal Medicine (February 1998), linked meat consumption to cancer. Also Atkins diet excludes fruit consumption. This causes the person to loose out on fiber, vitamin and mineral consumption. Constipation is, however, not the only consequence of this foolhardy step. Fruit consumption has been shown to lower the risk of cancers of digestive tract, bladder and prostrate. Thus going low on fruits and high on animal products at the same time, is like increasing your cancer link many fold all by yourself.
When the body is on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet, blood flow to the heart is diminished by about 40%. And inflammatory markers increase which is a sure danger sign. Also ketogenic diets cause dilation of heart muscles and cardiomyopathy. (It is noteworthy that Dr. Atkins himself suffered a heart attack caused by cardiomyopathy, which was covered up by propagating that the cause was a virus.)
Major health organizations such as the American Heart Association, National Cholesterol Education Programme, American Cancer Society, all say that a balanced required for healthy living should comprise of 10-15% proteins, 55- 60% carbohydrates and about 25- 30% fat. Contrastingly Atkins diet contains 80% or more proteins and fat and less than 6% carbohydrate. This imbalance is the primary cause of all the health problems that we have been discussing. In addition to the long term problems of kidney stones, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer and harmful effects of artificially induced ketosis, there are a number of short term effects as well. These include dehydration, diarrhea, weakness, headache, lethargy and bad breath.
The Atkins diet, however, induces weight loss initially basically because the body takes in less calories than it can effectively burn. Thus weight loss is induced in the initial stages. Also it keeps the people away from unhealthy food loaded with much more carbohydrate than required, such as the junk and fast food. But these effects are negligible when weighed in comparison with the harmful side effects. Unhealthy ways of weight loss can only lead to an unhealthy body and thus such diets should not be undertaken. Instead the age old mantra of exercise and healthy, balanced eating should be revived for effective weight loss and fitness.
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