In Defence of The Dr. Atkins Diet
It always drives me stark raving crazy when I see some 15-second news clip on TV featuring some nutritionist or other bad-mouthing the Dr. Atkins diet. Of course, they never have anything positive to say… “this low carb diet is dangerous”, or “high protein diets are dangerous” is usually what can be expected to come out of said “expert’s” mouth. To anyone familiar with the Atkins diet, it’s obvious that our esteemed expert has done little more than read the back flap of the Atkins diet, and has no real experience with it. Calling the Atkins diet a low carb diet is a gross simplification of the plan, and does an injustice to individuals unfamiliar with the diet. True, the Atkins diet does start with an induction period, where carbohydrates are reduced in order to reduce the body’s reliance on glucose and to reduce insulin resistance. This induction period is relatively short however, and shortly afterwards dieters are encouraged to reintroduce low-glycemic fruit and vegetables back into their diets. At this point, overall carbohydrate consumption will fall far short of what was typically normal in the individual’s diet — but that’s because carbs of low value — breads, buns, pastas, sweets, etc. have been eliminated. This is certainly not detrimental or dangerous… on the contrary!
And what about the “dangerous” high protein element of this diet? First of all, the Atkins diet isn’t a high protein diet… it’s a higher protein diet. Typical North American diets are chronically low in high quality protein. True, a bout on the Atkins diet might see your daily consumption of protein skyrocket from 30-40 grams per day to 100-150 grams per day. This is neither excessive nor dangerous. In fact, I challenge any “expert” to provide proof (in the form of a credible, peer-reviewed, double blind clinical study) that a moderately elevated protein intake leads to serious health issues in healthy people (i.e. those without kidney issues). While I am aware increased protein intake does increase levels of phosphorus, potassium and urea and does increase strain on the kidneys, there is no evidence that this is not easily dealt with by the body… especially with all the water you should be drinking on your diet.
Bottom line? If you’re going to put down the Atkins diet, at least be familiar with it, and provide arguments that hold water. Because in the end, the Atkins diet still remains the diet I’ve seen friends and associates achieve the most dramatic results with.