Is the Atkin's Diet Healthy – Food&Nutrition Example

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"Is the Atkin's Diet Healthy" is a useful example of a paper on food and nutrition.   The Atkins diet is a creation of Dr Robert Atkins, who came up with the diet as a solution to his own overweight problem. Earlier in his career, as a medical consultant, Dr Atkins explored the possibilities of total fasting having the same effect as a diet without carbohydrates (Hoffmann & Bailey, p20). His diet proved successful to both him and to his clients, and he, later on, popularized the diet with several publications in which he modified certain parts of the diet but retained the original concepts. The basic argument behind the Atkins diet was that the bodies of obese individuals were carbohydrate intolerant and experienced difficulty in handling sugar.

If these individuals were to cut weight, according to Atkins, they were to reduce their carbohydrate consumption, not calories. Throughout the 1970s, Dr Atkins was the nation’ s most important diet physician due to his high-fat diet. The diet is very appealing to many individuals since not only does it enable one to lose some weight, but also allows individuals to consume fatty meats, high-fat dairy products, certain fried foods, eggs, cheese, and even butter (Pasternak & Murphy, p24). The diet limits “ net carbs” which, according to Atkins, are the digestible carbohydrates that affect the blood sugar.

A rough formula for calculating the net carbs is to get the difference between the total carbohydrate in grams and the total fibre in grams as stated by Zinczenko & Spiker (p87).   In other words, Atkins reasoned that fibre does not impact blood sugar. This article will contrast the Atkins diet with the five characteristics that a nutritious diet possesses namely adequacy, balance, moderation, calorie control and variety. Atkins Diet versus Basic Nutritious Diet (ABCMV)                       A diet should have adequate amounts of the necessary nutrients, energy and fibre so as to avoid diseases that develop from bad eating habits.

The human body loses some nutrients every day and as such, one needs to keep replacing them. Inadequacy or excessive consumption of certain nutrients has negative effects on the human body. Each food contains certain amounts of certain nutrients and therefore if one is to get all necessary nutrients, one needs to include adequate amounts of all necessary nutrients (Whitney & Sizer, p10).                       Atkins diet encourages consumption of food high in fats and proteins but lower consumption of foods with carbohydrates.

Lower consumption of carbohydrates reduces the calorie intake which in turn reduces blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol. This type of diet could easily result in kidney stones and cardiovascular diseases according to Souza (p624). The Atkins diet is not balanced as it emphasizes some diets while completely ignoring others. Fruits and vegetables are not mentioned anywhere in the diet yet they remain very important for good health. The body, therefore, misses out on numerous vital nutrients which would have otherwise helped in boosting the immune system (Pasternak & Murphy, p24).

Atkins diet does little to address issues such as calorie control, variety and moderation in the consumption of food. Energy intakes should be equivalent to what the body needs and nutrients like fats and sugars need to be taken in moderation so as to avoid health conditions. Atkins diet allows the intake of a lot of fat.

The diet does not address variety but only concentrates on protein and fat consumption.   Review of the Atkins diet The benefits and risks of the Atkins diet are the subjects of much debate. Some studies have shown that the diet reduces heart diseases, lowers cholesterol levels, while other studies state the contrary. According to Harper (p93-94), in a study lasting a whole year, there was an improvement in insulin resistance in dieters following Atkins Diet than in dieters on low fat and calorie-restricted diet. Harper admitted that he had not researched enough so as to confidently recommend the Atkins diet to patients.

However, recent studies have shown contrary results; that cholesterol levels in Atkins dieters were more than 30 per cent compared to other dieters, encouraging the development of heart diseases (Barnett, Barnard and Radak, p1264).   The Atkins diet centres on the premise that individuals consume more carbohydrates than is required resulting in them being overweight, which is true to an extent. When people have higher energy intakes than energy expenditure, they are likely to be overweight.

In fact, whenever an individual consumes more calories than he/she burns, he/she is likely to gain weight. Atkins idea is that fat is only burnt by the body once the carbohydrates are exhausted. Atkins claimed that the human body burns fat more efficiently when the diet intake consists of a reduction of carbohydrates which are to be replaced by fats and proteins. Reduction of carbohydrate consumption according to the Atkins diet can be as low as 40 grams daily which results in the body undergoing ketosis. Ketosis makes it easy to diet though it may cause nausea and lack of appetite (AHA, par3).

The food and nutrition board of the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) recommends a daily carbohydrate intake on not less than 120 grams for proper brain function and good health. Although experts admit that weight loss is observed with the Atkins diet, the diet still raises questions of efficacy and long-term safety. The American Heart Association (AHA) is against the use of high-protein diets, like the Atkins diet, as a way of weight loss. AHA states that these diets are not nutritionally balanced and lack important carbohydrates and can lead to potential health complications (AHA, par2). The Atkins diet, besides enabling one to lose weight, has other undesirable side effects.

Long-term consumption of high-protein, high-fat diet increases the chances of developing heart diseases, strokes, diabetes, osteoporosis, liver and kidney disorders and several cancer types (AHA, par4). The American Dietetic Association does not recommend the Atkins diet for the same reason of potentially increasing diseases(ADA, par8). Conclusion                       Given the results from experts, I would not recommend the use of the Atkins diet as a way of weight reduction.

The diet seems to only have positive effects in the early stages but exposes long term dieters to dangerous health risks. Eating a balanced nutritious diet is the best way to live.


American Dietetic Association (2009) The All-New Atkins Advantage. Viewed on 22nd February, 2010,

American Heart Association (2010) High-Protein Diets. Viewed on 22nd February, 2010,

Barnett T., Barnard N. and Radak T. "Development of symptomatic cardiovascular disease after self-reported adherence to the Atkins diet". Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109 (7), 1263–1265.2009.

Harper A and Astrup, A. "Can we advise our obese patients to follow the Atkins diet?". Obesity Reviews 5, pp 93–94.2004.

Hoffmann, Frank and Bailey, William Fasion and Merchandizing Fads. Binghamton, NY: Routledge, 1994.

Pasternak, Hailey and Murphy, Myatt The 5-Factor Diet. Des Moines, Iowa: Meredith Books, 2006.

Souza, Thomas Differential Diagnosis and Management for the Chiropractor: Protocols and Algorithms. USA: Jones and Barnett Publishers, 2004.

Whitney, Ellie and Sizer, Frances Sienkiewicz Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies. USA: Cengage Learning, 2007.

Zinczenko, David and Spiker, Ted The Abs Diet: Six Weeks Plan to Flatten Your Stomach and keep You Lean for life. USA: Rodale, 2004.

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