The 1970's brought about an obesity epidemic in America the likes of which were never seen before, and in response to the this epidemic came a large number of fast acting, highly effective diet programs, which all claimed to be healthy ways to lose weight and to stay fit and healthy. One of the most well recognised of these diets is the Atkins Diet, which was developed and made popular by Dr Robert Atkins. The crucial point about this diet was the elimination of carbohydrates in the diet, while offering no real constriction of protein or fat. At the time it first came around it was a national (and soon to be international) sensation, but once many people had taken this diet and there was enough for data on the heath of the diet to emerge, many problems came to the surface. This paper takes a look at the negative and harmful effects of this diet, and ultimately proves why the Atkins Diet should not be used for dieting.
The Atkins diet is based on lipolysis. Lipolysis occurs when the body replaces the burning of glucose for energy with the burning of stored fat for energy, and restricting carbohydrate intake is the one of the most effective ways to do this. When the body is deprived of carbohydrates, the body enters a state known as ketosis, which is when the breakdown of fat instead of glucose for energy begins. Since the fat that is burned is mainly the stored fat, one can assume that this is an effective way to get rid of unwanted fat. It might be effective, but it is not sensible, and more and more evidence is showing that there are many harmful effects of lipolysis.
Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy, and usually, ketosis is what occurs due to starvation of basic staple foods that contain carbohydrates. The body needs to get energy from somewhere, so the alternative when there are no carbohydrates is to burn the fat instead. In the state of ketosis, acidic by-products of the burning of fat (called ketones) are produced, and these acids are neutralised by the bones. This caused the dissolution of the bone, in what is known as osteoporosis, which is a highly damaging process. The body processes the dissolved bone calcium through the kidneys, some of which can solidify and cause kidney stones, which is one commonly reported side effect of the Atkins diet (J. Nutr. 128:1051, 1998; J Redriatr, 117.743, 1990).
The kidneys can only process so much, and with prolonged carbohydrate starvation, blood acid levels can rise up to 90% higher than normal levels. Calcium processing and high blood acid levels can cause skin, nail and hair deterioration, and can make the body age much more quickly. Ketosis can also affect the brain, and nausea, slow response and lethargy are commonly reported.
The staple of the Atkins diet is the ironical intake of high amounts of fat from red meat. Medical studies have found a direct link between red meat and cancer (Archives of Internal Medicine, 1998). Fruit is high in carbohydrates, and so naturally the Atkins diet forbids fruit intake. Fruit is a very important part of our diet however and includes many vital vitamins, minerals and fibre required for healthy bodily function. The effects of not eating fruit include constipation, bowel cancer, prostate cancer and bladder cancer. So, going on the Atkins diet unequivocally increases your chances of contracting these types of cancers.
On a high protein and low carbohydrate diet, blood flow through the heart decreases, which can lead to inflammation and problems related to this. Ketogenic diets cause the muscles of the heart to dilate, leading to cardiomyopathy. It is interesting to mention that Dr Atkins had a heart attack which was caused by cardiomyopathy.
Every single health organisation around the world, such as the American Cancer Society, the British Heart Foundation, and the American Heart Association all state that a balanced diet is crucial for a healthy body, with an intake of roughly 15% protein, 60% carbohydrates and 25% fat. The Atkins diet is 80% proteins, and around 5% carbohydrate. This imbalance has never been prevalent in the human diet, and rightly so, with the talked about disease the result of such imbalance. The highly damaging consequences of the Atkins diet such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney stones are accompanied by the commonly reported short term symptoms including headaches, dehydration, weakness and lethargy, and the notorious bad breath.
It is no lie that the Atkins diet can induce effective weight loss by ketosis. But most people say that the weight lost is always put on again upon stopping the diet. It is wrong to think that an unhealthy and quick-fix diet can make lasting improvements upon an unhealthy body. The real key to a healthy body and weight loss is by a healthy nutritious diet, and regular exercise.
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