Some Expert Views on Atkins Diet
Dr. Foster, one of the researchers involved in studying the Atkins Diet, acknowledged the possible health dangers of the Atkins diet and stated a longer five-year study was planned:
“This larger study of 360 participants will help us more fully assess the benefits and risks of low-carbohydrate diets on bone mass, kidney function, arterial function and exercise tolerance,” he said.
“I’m very, very concerned that people will get the message from these studies that the Atkins diet is safe and effective, but I don’t believe we know that yet.
Brigid McKevith, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), said:
“We welcome the fact that the Atkins diet is being studied scientifically and that randomised controlled studies have been carried out, because it’s very popular with the public. [however] There are several potential problems with the Atkins diet. These include long term bone health, as with a very high protein intake the excretions of calcium increase, so there could be implications for the health of bones,” she explained.
“There could be difficulties for people who have an underlying problem with their kidneys or liver, because it would be putting more strain on those organs, and problems in terms of heart disease too, as it’s a diet very low in fruits and vegetables. Also, it’s very low in fiber, so in terms of digestive health, it’s not in keeping with our fibre and complex carbohydrate recommendations.”
Belinda Linden, head of medical information at the British Heart Foundation, holds similar views.
“The new studies do not indicate a dramatic weight loss for excessively obese people,” she said. “Previous studies have shown that weight loss from the Atkins Diet may involve muscle loss rather than body fat. Another potential problem is that it is so far unclear from studies whether weight loss is sustained over a longer period than six months. One of the studies shows no significant difference at 12 months.”
She added that:
“With minimal fruit and vegetables included in the diet, it holds serious implications for coronary heart disease and cancer. Diets need to be varied to protect against these conditions – and this one isn’t. This diet requires further long term and larger studies before its effectiveness can be confirmed.”
Susan Barr, registered dietitian in New York City, says:
“There have been reports in the medical literature that say that this low-carb diet may not be as bad as we thought. That makes people interested again in this diet, but until there is more research on what stresses the diet places on the body, there is no way to know what it might be doing besides providing short-term weight loss.”
Volumetrics author Barbara Rolls, PhD, who holds the Guthrie Chair in Nutrition at Penn State University, offers a very simple explanation as to why people lose weight on Atkins diet:
“They’re cutting calories, even if they don’t realize it. No one has shown, in any studies, that anything magical is going on with Atkins other than calorie restriction. The diet is very prescriptive, very restrictive, and limits half of the foods we normally eat. In the end it’s not fat, it’s not protein, it’s not carbs – it’s calories. You can lose weight on anything that helps you to eat less, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.”
Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Commission for Responsible Medicine, a non-profit research group based in Washington, says:
“Low-carb diets have been linked to increased frequency of colon cancer, formation of kidney stones, kidney disease, and even osteoporosis… The reason for the health worries is in large part due to red meat. People who eat meat every day have three times greater risk of developing colon cancer. And then there is the problem of the kidneys. They aren’t designed to work on an oil slick of fat.”
The Atkins Diet Controversy Continues
Atkins Diet supporters claim it offers faster weight loss and a relatively user-friendly eating plan. Sceptics, including dietitians and nutritionists, maintain that Atkins Diet weight loss is both short-term and possibly a health risk, even though the weight loss itself may have the beneficial effect of lowering cholesterol.