- low carbohydrate
- high protein
- few restrictions on quantity of food
- severe limits in kinds of foods – no
- refined sugar, milk, white rice, or white flour
- cereals, grains, fruits, and vegetables
- permits foods traditionally regarded as "rich"
- meat, eggs, butter, cheese
The World Health Organization and other respected institutions recommend the adult diet consist of 45 – 65% carbohydrate, 10 – 35% protein and 20 – 35% fat.
The Atkins diet consists of approximately 7 – 15% carbohydrate, 50 – 55% protein and 30 – 40% fat.
Based on Dr Robert Atkins original research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1958, the Atkins Diet was popularized by the publication in 1972 of ‘Dr Atkins’ Diet Revolution’ which was revised in 2002 and re-branded as ‘Dr Atkins’ New Diet Revolution’ and revised yet again in 2010 and re-released as ‘The New Atkins for a New You’.
In each the precept is basically the same – low consumption of carbohydrate, so low that it precipitates ketosis, a condition where you burn fat for fuel rather than use glucose.
There are four phases of the Atkins diet: induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance and lifetime maintenance:
During the 2 week or longer Induction phase the body quickly enters a state of ketosis as carbohydrate intake is limited to about 20g per day, 12 – 15g of which must come in the form of 54 permissible salad greens fruits and vegetables. 20g equates to a daily quota of about 3 cups of loosely packed salad or 2 cups of salad with 2/3 cup of cooked vegetables.
The Ongoing Weight Loss phase of the Atkins Diet consists of small incremental increases in carbohydrate of 5g per week where weight loss still occurs. Fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods may now be added In Pre-Maintenance forbidden carbohydrates are reintroduced once a week. By this stage the dieter is losing the protective effect of ketosis and the dieter experiences a transition from weight loss to weight maintenance.
Lifetime maintenance of low consumption of carbohydrate is required for permanent results. On the lifelong forbidden list are refined sugar, milk, white rice, white potatoes and bread, pasta or noodles made with white flour.
The Atkins diet remains highly controversial despite evidence it works not only to lose weight but to improve triglycerides and HDL cholesterol. The concern among experts is its long-term safety particularly in relation to liver, kidney and colon health due to the high proportion of protein and low level of fiber.
According to the American Dietetic Association the body needs a minimum of about 150g of carbohydrates daily for efficient and healthy functioning. Below that, normal metabolic activity is disrupted. Additionally the brain requires glucose to function efficiently. Carbohydrates, especially in the form of vegetables, grains, and fruits, are more efficiently converted to glucose.
The Atkins diet is associated with little hunger and rapid weight loss, but can cause headaches, irritability, nausea, kidney trouble, and heart palpitations.
Similar diets are the Zone, Protein Power, and Sugar Busters.