Atkins Diet Death - Health Warning!
nutritionists' advice is that this weight loss diet is unhealthy


In 2003 The Sunday Times reported the death of a 16 year old teenager in the USA on day 8 of an Atkins diet. Her death was attributed to an abnormal heart rhythm brought about by low levels of potassium and calcium in her blood. An American doctor also suffered severe chest pain and heart dysrythmia while on an Atkin diet. Potassium and calcium levels are vital for normal conductivity of electrical impulses which keep the heart beating.

The popular high protein, low carbohydrate, Atkins Diet for losing weight has been criticized by leading nutritionist Dr Susan Jebb, of the Medical Research Council Centre for Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Speaking at a briefing at the Royal Institution, London in 2003, Dr. Jebb said that the diet is a fad and based on pseudo-science. She rejects as fundamentally unhealthy any diet which cuts out an entire food group (carbohydrates in this case). She says that the Atkin Diet could pose serious health problems and that it would be negligent to recommend the Atkins diet to anyone who was overweight.

Dr. Jebb is the latest in a series of nutritionists who have criticised the Atkins Diet devised by Dr Robert Atkins in the 1960s. Atkins believed that excess carbohydrate intake results in overproduction of insulin which in turn stimulates hunger and weight gain.

Dr Jane Ogden, from King's College says that most of the benefits of the Atkins diet were "in the mind" and that its simple format and allowance of tasty, high-fat food made it popular. The diet can be effective in the short term, like all low carbohydrate diets, but it is usually doomed to failure - "The moment the body starts losing weight, it lowers metabolic rate making it harder to shed further pounds. With any diet, about 60 per cent of people lose weight in the first few weeks but over the next few years 95-99 per cent regain all the weight they lose - and some put on even more. The reality of dieting is that you have to modify the behaviour that you have learned from being a baby, and that's extremely difficult."

Nutritionists are also saying that a high protein diet like the Atkins results in excessive demands on the kidneys and increases calcium loss from the body with repercussions on bone development and structure. Carbohydrate foods can protect against heart disease and also are an important source of fibre which aids colon health and can reduce the risk of high cholesterol and cancer. Carbohydrate foods are also a key source of vitamins and antioxidants.

High fat diets like the Atkins are a known risk for a variety of cancers.

Dr. Jebb's criticism has been rejected by at least one fan of the Atkins Diet, who says in a letter to The Telegraph that the Atkins diet, whilst initially forbidding carbohydrates for the two induction weeks, then allows dieters to reintroduce carbohydrates. The point at which the dieter stops losing weight is that particular person's "level" and cutting back from this point will restart the weight loss. Everyone's ability to assimilate carbohydrates is different and it is finding this level which is the key to this way of eating and subsequent weight loss.

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