To lose weight fast, eat meat – that’s what the Atkins Diet tells us
The Atkins diet works faster initially than a low-fat diet, and may improve blood fat levels, say studies.
OBESITY rates are rising, but science has barely weighed in on the best way for people to shed fat. That state of affairs is starting to change, and doctors are getting a surprise or two.
ATKINS DIET: What’s in it
THE Atkins diet promotes protein-rich foods such as meat, eggs and cheese over traditional diet basics like pasta, bread and vegetables.
The popular carbohydrate-slashing Atkins diet received a dollop of endorsement from two studies after years of being pooh-poohed by health specialists.
Protein vs Carbs
The studies, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that the meat- and fat-rich regimen caused faster weight loss in the short term than a conventional low-fat diet.
More importantly – because many had feared that the diet, even if slimming, might unfavourably affect cholesterol levels and be bad for the heart – the low-carbohydrate regimen also seemed to improve the dieters’ blood fat profiles.
But Atkins, like every other diet, is no miraculous fat-melter.
The longer of the two studies suggested that a low-carb regimen might be harder to maintain beyond six months, compared with a low-fat approach. By the end of the year, the low-fat dieters had caught up and lost the same – very modest – amount of heft.
In addition, although on average people on low-carb diets did not experience increases in their so-called ‘bad’ (or LDL) cholesterol levels, about 30 per cent of them did.
Even with these caveats, ‘we can no longer dismiss very-low-carbohydrate diets’, said Dr Walter Willett, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, in a written editorial accompanying the papers.
To maximise the diets’ healthfulness, he added, people should avoid going wild on fatty bacon and red meat, and should opt instead to eat healthy oils (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and get protein from fish, beans, nuts and chicken.
The weight-loss regimen popularised by the late Dr Robert Atkins – rich in meat, eggs and cheese but almost bereft of grains, potatoes and fruit – is highly popular but had not been tested in a scientifically rigorous way until earlier this century, when two studies reported that very obese and moderately obese people lost more weight initially on the Atkins diet than on a conventional diet.
The studies published bolster and extend these findings.
Conducted at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Centre, the first study enrolled 132 severely obese adults with an average weight of 130kg. Many of those in the study had diabetes or other risk factors for coronary artery disease.
Roughly half of them were put on a low-fat diet and told to eat 500 fewer calories a day.
The others followed a regimen in which they were to limit their carbohydrate intake to less than 30g daily, but were not told to count calories or fat.
The scientists reported last year that at six months, the low-carb group had lost an average of 5.8kg, compared with 1.8kg for the low-fat group.
Last month, the scientists reported that after one year, individuals on the Atkins-style diet largely kept the weight off but did not continue to lose more weight.
The low-fat group continued to lose weight slowly over the course of the year.
Total weight loss for both groups over the year was slight: 4.9kg to 8.6kg for the low-carb group, and 3.1kg to 8.6kg for the low-fat group.
The study also found that diabetic patients improved control over their blood sugar levels using the low-carb approach.
The second investigation was funded by the Robert C. Atkins Foundation, although the foundation did not take part in the study or its analysis.
Conducted at Duke University Medical Centre in Durham, North Carolina, it enrolled 120 moderately obese adults who had high-blood cholesterol levels.
At six months, participants who followed a low-carb approach had lost an average of 11.7kg, compared with 6.3kg for the low-fat group.
Weight loss was not the only effect of these diets. Both studies found that levels of triglycerides – blood fats that are risk factors for heart disease – fell further in the low-carb group than in the low-fat group. Levels of HDL, or ‘good’, cholesterol also seemed to improve more in the low-carb group.
The Atkins Diet
The Atkins Diet is probably the best known low carb weight loss plans and is both highly revered and highly criticised in the media. Here we give you an overview of the Atkins Diet from the perspective of its followers & promoters.
What is the Atkins Diet?
- A lifetime nutritional philosophy, focusing on the consumption of nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods and vita-nutrient supplementation. The Atkins diet restricts processed/refined carbohydrates (which make up over 50% of many people’s diets), such as high-sugar foods, breads, pasta, cereal, and starchy vegetables. Core vita-nutrient supplementation includes a full-spectrum multi-vitamin and an essential oils/fatty acid formula.
- A lifetime nutritional philosophy that has been embraced by an estimated 20+ million people worldwide since the release of the book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution in the 1970s.
- The Atkins Diet counts net carbs. Net carbs are the carbohydrate content of food less fibre and certain other carbs such as sugar and alcohols..
The Main Benefits of the Atkins Diet
- You’ll start to burn fat for energy: Since carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source, you’ll rarely use your secondary energy source, you own body fat, for energy unless you restrict carbohydrate consumption. This offers a lifetime of body fat burning, which is the goal of most people trying to lose weight.
- You won’t feel hungry in between meals: The biggest battle that most people have with weight loss is the constant obsession with food (for example, if you’ve ever thought about dinner when you’re eating lunch). Again, much of this is caused by blood sugar fluctuations that are aggravated by carbohydrate consumption (especially the refined kind). By cutting the carbs, you’ll maintain a more even blood sugar level throughout the day. No more false hunger pains or mid-afternoon brain drains.
- Your overall health will improve and you’ll feel better: Many of the toxins you take into your body are stored in your fat cells. By getting your body to burn stored fat, you allow it to clean itself out. Combined with the benefits of stable blood sugar, the end result is that many common ailments you have been experiencing could well be alleviated. Fatigue, irritability, depression, headaches, and even many forms of joint and muscular pain simply go away. Furthermore, you should see a significant improvement in your blood profile, (including cholesterol and blood pressure levels). All this leads to better health and well-being, something all of us strive to bring into our lives.
Diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates like bread, pasta, cereal, and other mainly “low-fat” processed foods increase your body’s production of insulin. When insulin is at high levels in the body, the food you eat can get readily converted into body fat, in the form of triglycerides (to top it off, high triglyceride levels in the body are one of the greatest risk factors for heart disease).
Even worse, high carbohydrate meals tend to leave you less satisfied than those that contain adequate fat levels; so you eat more and get hungrier sooner. If you find this hard to believe, think about how much pasta you can eat at lunch and then how hungry you are running to the vending machine for another “carbo-fix” in the mid-afternoon. If the pasta you ate was really giving your body what it needed, you would stay full until dinner time. So the typical low-protein, low-fat meal leaves you eating more and hungry sooner.
So what should you do? Get off the insulin generating roller coaster of the low-fat diet and start cutting down on your carbohydrate consumption, especially the worst offenders: sugar, white flour and other refined carbohydrate-based products.