Atkins Diet : Pros and Cons
Since its inception in 1970, the Atkins diet has been controversial. It’s also been very popular, especially in recent years. A nutrition advocacy group recently warned that the popular Atkins diet may cause heart disease and could have killed a teenage dieter.
It urged the United States government to monitor the high-fat weight loss approach to see if it indeed causes heart disease.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine stressed it could not prove the diet had hurt or killed anyone. But one dieter said he believed the approach clogged his arteries and the parents of a teenager who died while on the diet also blamed her meat-heavy regimen.
Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., is the market-leading provider of innovative products and services based on controlled carbohydrate nutritional science.
The PCRM called on the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor diets and check for signs that the Atkins and other high-fat, high-protein diets may be harming people’s health.
“You can never say this diet caused this death,” PCRM director Dr Neal Barnard cautioned. He said the CDC should monitor large groups over time to see if there was an association.
People claiming to have been harmed by high-protein diets reported health problems on a PCRM’s Web site registry. The online registry found:
– 42 percent reported loss of energy
– 31 percent reported difficulty concentrating
– 22 percent reported kidney problems
– 20 percent reported heart-related problems
The CDC had no immediate comment. Two federal health officials who asked not to be named said it might be possible to incorporate the information into existing surveys on diet, lifestyle and health.
Atkins Nutritionals said its diet was safe.
“There is no logic and no science to support any association between these individuals and the ANA (Atkins Nutritional Approach),” said Colette Heimowitz, vice president of education and research for the company.
The Atkins diet has made headlines around the world with an approach that flies in the face of most medical advice. It is based on a theory developed by Dr Robert Atkins, who died in April after a fall, that carbohydrates make people fat.
It encourages dieters to shun bread, pasta, fruit and many vegetables in favour of meat, butter and other fatty food.
“What I contend is that the Atkins diet gave me heart disease,” Jody Gorran, a 53-year-old Florida businessman, said at a news conference organised by PCRM. He said his arteries clogged and cholesterol shot up while on the diet.
Paul and Lisa Huskey of Columbia, Missouri, say their 16-year-old daughter, Rachel, died of a heart arrhythmia in 2000 while on the diet. Dr Paul Robinson, a paediatrician at the hospital where Rachel died, said the diet could have caused her death by leaching calcium and potassium from her body.
Many doctors and the American Heart Association have warned that the diet could be dangerous. The Heart Association advocates a diet based on whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
It warned that over time the Atkins diet and similar approaches could raise cholesterol. Other experts have said the diet might also increase the risk of kidney disease and the PCRM adds osteoporosis and colon cancer to the list of risks.
Some high-protein, very-low-carbohydrate, weight-loss diets are designed to induce ketosis, a state that also occurs in uncontrolled diabetes mellitus and starvation.
Low-carb diets such as Atkins have gained popularity in recent years from followers who believe they are healthy and effective alternatives to traditional diets that avoid fat. While avoiding high-carbohydrate foods such as bread and potatoes, the diet does allow foods such as butter and bacon.
When carbohydrate intake or utilization is insufficient to provide glucose to the cells that rely on it as an energy source, ketone bodies are formed from fatty acids. An increase in circulating ketones can disturb the body’s acid-base balance, causing metabolic acidosis. Even mild acidosis can have potentially deleterious consequences over the long run.
Doctors say anyone who loses weight will lower cholesterol in the short term.
More than 60 percent of American adults ore overweight or obese so the need for effective diets is clear.
“The skinniest people on the planet are vegetarians and Asians,” Barnard said.