Definition of Atkins diet

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Atkins diet: A high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate weight-loss diet popularized by Dr. Robert C. Atkins that allows for unrestricted amounts of meat, cheese and eggs while severely restricting carbohydrates, including sugar, bread, pasta, milk, fruits and vegetables. The Atkins diet is based on the theory that eating carbohydrates stimulates the production of insulin, which in turn leads to hunger, eating, and weight gain. The theory is that people on the Atkins diet experience reduced appetite and their bodies use stored fat for energy versus burning glucose from ingested carbohydrate. Burning fat for energy is supposedly lead to weight loss.

On the positive side of the ledger, people on the Atkins diet usually like eating the high amounts of protein foods that may be restricted on other diets. Those who have been unsuccessful on other low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets often lose weight on the Atkins diet. The diet is easy to follow. No point system, calorie counting or complicated meal plans are involved.

On the negative side of the ledger, there is medical concern about the deleterious effects of a high-protein diet on kidney function, cholesterol levels, and the risks of heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer. The Atkins diet limits the amounts of fruits, vegetables, milk and other high-fiber foods which naturally provide essential vitamins and minerals. Atkins diet followers may also have difficulty maintaining this diet long term. The problem is taste. The only way to really satisfy taste without carbohydrate is by increasing fat. And this is another concern with the Atkins plan. The weight loss with the Atkins diet occurs predominately through a process called ketosis, and a majority of it (at least initially) is fluid loss. There have been no long-term randomized studies to support the safety of this diet.

Dr. Robert C. Atkins received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical School in 1955 and went on to specialize first in internal medicine and then in cardiology. In 1963 he first tried a low-carbohydrate diet after reading about one in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Atkins later recounted that he lost weight so easily on the diet that he converted his fledgling cardiology practice into an weight-loss clinic. Aside from popularizing the diet associated now with his name, Dr. Atkins "championed the natural healing arts as a safe and effective alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and surgery for many debilitating illnesses." He believed that ozone gas can kill cancer cells and HIV and therefore treated many patients with ozone. Dr. Atkins died accidentally. On his way to work in New York City on April 8, 2003 he slipped on a patch of sidewalk ice and struck his head . He never regained consciousness and died on April 17 at age 72.


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