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Atkins: The Truth Behind The Craze
Brooke Whitesell
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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One of the leading health problems in America is obesity. Americans are consuming fast food at an all time high and it is not only showing on our waistlines but deteriorating the heart as well. A new revolution transpired when Robert Atkins coined the Atkins Diet. Atkins was based on the elimination of enriched flour and carbohydrates that may harm the body for a guaranteed fast weight loss. Though Atkins brought results, it may have also brought serious health side effects that were undetected until recently. The purpose of this essay is to examine the controversy among leading scholars and doctors concerning the validity of the iniquitous Atkins Diet.

Atkins received his medical degree from prestigious Cornell University; he continued his higher education specializing in cardiology (Ward and Yoakman 21). In 1972 Atkins published his first book, Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolutions, which exposed the dangers of a carbohydrate diet (21). The book was finally released in bookstores in 1992 where is remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over three years (21). Atkins passed away in 2003;nevertheless, he left behind a legendary diet that will have an enduring effect on many lives.

According to Elizabeth M. Ward and Linda R. Yoakman, authors of the recognized book The Low-Carb Bible; Atkins suggests that the best way to control ones' metabolism is to eat a very low-carbohydrate diet (21). The Atkins Diet approach requires no calorie or portion counting but rather choosing acceptable foods, steering clear of most carbohydrates. The diet exists in four phases: the Introduction phase to the diet lasts from two to six weeks, depending on how much weight one wants to shed. In this phase the dieter is limited to 20 grams of carbohydrates a day, about the amount of one cup of fresh blueberries (21). The Ongoing Weight Lost phase is next and lasts from two weeks to two months and allows five grams of carbs to a weekly diet. Accredited in the book by Ward and Yoakman this phase helps maintain steady weight loss, however if the weight plateaus Atkins suggests to cut back on the carbohydrates again until desired weight loss is reached for that phase (21). The third phase is the Pre-Maintenance phase. During this period, which lasts a few weeks to a couple of months, the dieter adds ten grams of carbohydrates to their diet per week. The dieters' goal is to discover their personal Critical Carbohydrate Level; these are the quantity of carbohydrates one can intake to facilitate their present weight. The final phase is the Lifetime Maintenance phase. This phase is the achievement of the Atkins Diet, if one prefers to continue the diet they do so with the amount of carbs they are consuming in this period. The Atkins Diet contains the lowest amount of carbohydrates allowed to intake; moreover Atkins advises the dieter take a bountiful computation of supplements to balance out the absence of much needed nutrients. The foremost concern that is debated among various doctors and scholars is whether or not this is the proper way of dieting. The absence of carbohydrates may make the dieter feels fatigued moreover making dieters eat too much protein to overcompensate for the lack of carbs, thus clogging their arteries.

Dean Ornish, who is founder and president of Preventive Medicine Research Institute and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, agrees with Atkins on the diagnosis of the need of Americans to eat more complex carbohydrates (Ornish 538). However, the two doctors disagreed in the prescription for society to do so. Ornish suggests a more evidence-based diet by substituting simple carbohydrates to complex carbohydrates that should include fruits, vegetables, soy products, and whole grains (538). "In addition to high fiber, these complex carbohydrates and whole foods are rich in phytochemicals, bioflavonoids, carotenoids, retinols, surforaphanes, isoflavones, and polyphenols and other substances that may reduce the risk of many chronic disease" (538). In contrast, the Atkins Diet is high in disease-promoting substances and low in protective essence. Ornish strongly advises diets that promote such a high protein and fatty intake. The Zone Diet and South Beach Diet are also high protein diets that emphasize consumption of meat, eggs and butter but are not as detrimental as Atkins.

Kathy Goodwin is an author on the Diet Channel website who is in agreement with Ornish in disapproval of the Atkins Diet. The simple addition of supplements, which is imperative while on Atkins, cannot replace required carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are necessary in the breaking down of food; the body also uses carbs for energy. Atkins could cause serious side effects; Goodwin suggests that the restricting of calories is what causes weight loss, not the eradication of carbohydrates.

Kevin Vigilante and Mary Flynn co-authored the book Low Fat Lies that divulges the harsh truths of low fat and low carbohydrate diets. Vigilante and Flynn have deemed the most adequate weight loss technique lies in the eradicating of calories, not carbohydrates (Vigilante, and Flynn 113). "Carbohydrates account for almost fifty percent of the calories in an average person's diet; "If you suddenly eliminate fifty percent of your calories it would be difficult to compensate for that loss"(113). Vigilante and Flynn observe diets such as the Zone and Atkins in terms of calories, not carbohydrates, proteins, or sugars. The authors' simplistic point of view makes complex dieting seem straightforward.

In rigorous contrast to Ornish, Goodwin, Vigilante, and Flynn; Arne Astrup, Thomas Meinert Larson and Angela Harper propose that a low carbohydrate diet is the most proficient approach to losing weight. Astrup, Larsen, and Harper have conducted randomized trials that have proven low carbohydrate diets are a more sufficient method to rapid weight loss (Astrup, Larsen, and Harper 897). "Somewhat surprisingly, greater improvements in some cardiovascular risk factors were seen in people on the low- carbohydrate diet" (898). Astrup, Larsen, and Harper affirm that the most frequent side effects of a low carbohydrate diet are those of constipation and headache (898). Moreover, Astrup and his colleagues concur with a low carbohydrate diet, but do insist on additional research to survey the long-term effects.

The debate over which form of diet will prevail will continue until ample evidence supporting one side is reached. It is difficult to decipher which diet is paramount, particularly when both diets demonstrate considerable weight loss. The Atkins Diet provides it's most quantity of weight loss is in the first six months of dieting which averages 15.7 pounds. However, after a year of dieting the final weight loss averages only 9.7 pounds. Diets such as the Zone, Atkins, South Beach, and various forms of low carbohydrate diets are the most difficult in keeping. The carbohydrate limiting diets allocate for a minimal array of assorted foods, this makes weight loss decrease over time. Overall dieters need to become aware of all risks that could take place in their bodies before they start a specific diet. Dieters are easily fooled by initial weight loss and might continue a dangerous diet unknowingly, making it imperative for research to continue in search of a safe, effective diet.

Arthur Agatston, author of the prominent South Beach Diet book and diet designed the admired diet as an alternative to Atkins. Agatston is in strong incongruity with the Atkins Diet, and believes carbohydrates should be divided into two separate groups, the good and the bad. Agatston suggests that the banning of all carbs actually makes one hungrier and leaves the dieter to exist on only proteins. The proteins the dieter is then faced with are high in fat, such as bacon, eggs, non-low fat cheese, red meat, and butter (Agatston 10). "These are, as most people know, the bad fats-the ones that can lead to cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke" (10). Incongruously, Atkins died from cardiovascular failure, leaving scholars to inquire the integrity of the Atkins Diet and the serious long-term results. The South Beach Diet offers three phases, similar to Atkins. Phase one is the strictest plan on the diet; it entails the first two weeks of the diet and denies all carbohydrates of any kind (111). During this phase one is predicted to loose from eight to thirteen pounds. Egg white substitutes, Canadian or turkey bacon, green vegetables, and lean meats reign supreme in this phase. The second phase of the diet is the more tolerant version of the diet (183). In this phase the dieter is allowed to include carbohydrates in the diet, only the good ones of course. Fruit, whole-wheat grain, sugar free candy, yogurt, and London boil are permissible until targeted goal weight is achieved. "Phase three is the most liberal stage of the diet-by now it is simply one important aspect of a healthy lifestyle rather than a weight-loss program" (243). This phase is a free thinking period where the dieter is able to decide what is best for their specific body type and continue the eating habits they have chosen indefinitely.

According to Agatston, The South Beach Diet seems to be a sagacious compromise to The Atkins Diet. Agatston's book over The South Beach Diet is very detailed making the text uncomplicated to read for those wanting to loose weight the healthy way. The book also includes a day-to-day meal plan along with recipes from world-renowned chefs that can be prepared in a standard kitchen.

In assertive deviation with the scholars previously mentioned, Yvonne Tapper- Gardzina, Nancy Contugna, and Connie E. Vickery have their own distinct opinion on all low-carbohydrate, high protein diets. Gardzina, Contugna, and Vickery co-authored "Should You Recommend a Low Carb, High Protein Diet?" claim that promoters of popular diets often have medical degrees making them seem knowledgeable; when in fact most diet designers make crude generalizations about complicated biochemical reactions and support their claims by extracting data out of context. "The public remains largely uneducated on diet safety concerns. In the absence of sufficient research about long-term effects of diet-programs, you may have difficulty advising patients about the diet's positive or negative health impact" (Gardzina, Contugna, and Vickery 52). Although each of the above diets differ in specific construction they all contain higher than recommended protein utilization.

Low-carbohydrate diets are heavily debated, making the demand for more testing even greater. Jennifer Marks, author of "The Weighty Issue of Low- Carb Diets, or Is the Carbohydrate the Enemy?" corresponds with Gardzina, Contugna, and Vickery stating: "There is no clear evidence to support severe restriction of dietary carbohydrate as promoting either long-term health or weight reduction. All carbohydrates are not the same" (Marks 156).

There is a general consensus among all of the scholars given, Atkins works. The Atkins Diet provides significant, rapid weight loss, however, the debate lies in the constant consumption of proteins, which was claimed to clog arteries and promote heart disease. As a result, more research should be completed to better equip dieters with the proper approach to healthy eating.

Works Cited

Agatston, Arthur. The South Beach Diet. New York: Random House, 2003.

Astrup, Arne, Thomas Meinert Larsen, and Angela Harper. "Atkins and Other Low- Carbohydrate Diets: Hoax or An Effective Tool for Weight Loss?" The Lancet 364.9437 (2004): 897-99.

Goodwin, Kathy. The Atkins Diet-A Comprehensive Analysis. 9 Aug. 2004. 2004. 22 Feb. 2005 <http://www.thedietchannel.com/atkins.htm>.

Marks, Jennifer B. "The Weighty Issue of Low-Carb Diets, or Is The Carbohydrate the Enemy?" Clinical Diabetes 22.4 (2004): 155-56.

Ornish, Dean. "Was Dr. Atkins Right?" Journal of the Dietetic Association 104.4 (2004): 537-42.

Tapper- Gardzina, Yvonne, Nancy Cotugna, and Connie E. Vickery. "Should You Recommend a Low-Carb, High-Protein Diet?" Nurse Practitioner Apr.2002: 52-59.

Vigilante, Kevin, and Mary Flynn. Low Fat Lies. DC: LifeLine P, 1999.

Ward, Elizabeth M., and Linda R. Yoakman. The Low-Carb Bible. Illinois: Publications International, LTD, 2003.

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