Pros and Cons of the Atkins Diet

Karen Frazier
Atkins Diet Pros and Cons

Many diets have their detractors; however, few have caused as much controversy as the Atkins Diet. Indeed, it is difficult to understand the science behind a diet based on tenets that appear to fly in the face of other scientific knowledge. With its huge allowances for fat and cholesterol-laden foods, it has become one of the most criticized weight loss plans of our time. Paradoxically, it remains one of the most popular diets, as well. The Atkins diet has remained one of the most widely discussed diets since its Dr. Atkins first published his book, Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, in 1972.

Evaluating the Atkins Diet

Pros

The Atkins diet offers significant benefits to many dieters.

  • The Atkins Diet, when followed properly, does indeed result in weight loss. Many people share anecdotal stories of success in both weight loss and improved blood lipid profiles on the diet.
  • Multiple studies support the diet's efficacy. Most recently, Temple University demonstrated the long-term effectiveness of an Atkins style diet for weight loss, showing it works equally well as a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet for weight loss. A 2007 Stanford University study compared Atkins to three other popular diets and found the Atkins diet was the most effective of the four.
  • Carnivores love the diet. If a person enjoys eating meats and cheeses, they could hardly pick a better regimen to follow when it comes to sticking to it. All diets entail giving up something, whether it is a large portion size or specific foods. Although the program severely restricts carbohydrates, this is not a problem for an individual who craves ice cream in this age of artificial sweeteners.
  • After the initial stages, you can adapt the diet to your personal level of carbohydrate tolerance. As you progress, Dr. Atkins allows you to add carbohydrate-containing foods into your diet, incorporating about five additional carbohydrates per day each week until you reach a level at which your body stops losing weight. From that point, you back off to your previous level of carbohydrate intake that did allow weight loss and use that as your ongoing carb level throughout the loss portion of the diet.
  • The quick initial weight loss, although much of it is water, can provide early results that motivate you to stick with the diet for the long haul.
  • If you are a person who has been unable to stick to a diet because of unstoppable cravings for simple carbohydrates, such as candy and bread, this diet will stop those cravings for as long as you minimize carbohydrate intake. There are many recipes available that can help you stick to the diet.
  • The diet creates a state called ketosis, in which your body burns fat as fuel. As a result of this metabolic state, you may be less hungry and have more energy than you do on other diets.
  • The diet controls insulin release, which may be beneficial at staving off type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Cons

Many medical experts express health concerns about the Atkins diet, as well.

  • The diet is high in saturated fat, which contributes to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
  • The diet is also high in protein, which may cause kidney problems.
  • For many, the restrictive nature of the diet makes it difficult to follow because they cannot eat any of the carbohydrate containing foods they enjoy.
  • During the early stages of the diet, many experience flu-like symptoms often called induction flu. Others may experience a lack of energy during carbohydrate depletion, or conversely, some experience a "buzz" that makes sleep difficult.
  • Much of the rapid weight loss in early stages of the diet results from water loss. Your body stores carbohydrates at a ratio of three parts water to one part carbohydrate. As you deplete carbohydrates, you also deplete water, leading to water weight loss rather than fat loss.
  • The diet is low in fiber. This may lead to constipation. Fiber also reduces cholesterol and protects the body from colon disease, certain cancers, and heart disease.
  • If you return to eating carbohydrates, there is a good chance you will regain the weight you lost. Low-carbohydrate diets need to become a lifestyle in order to produce lasting, maintainable weight loss.

Is Atkins for You?

If, after carefully evaluating your options, you elect to pursue a low carbohydrate diet, there's a good chance you will lose weight. If you cheat, however, your carbohydrate cravings will very likely return. You alone can decide which diet best suits your needs. Always talk with a doctor before undertaking any diet plan.

Pros and Cons of the Atkins Diet