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Health101.org
presents
Dangers of the Atkins Diet

by Joel Fuhrman, MD

There are numerous ways to lose weight. However effective they may be, some are just not safe. A meat-based, low fiber diet like Atkins advocates with no fruit, or starchy vegetables, will almost double your risk of certain cancers, especially of meat-sensitive cancers, such as colon cancer. Atkins' plan works to cause weight loss much in the same manner as an insulin dependent diabetic.

Robert Atkins' books, as well as other authors, advocating high-protein weight loss plans, recommend diets for health and weight loss with significantly more animal protein than is usually consumed by the average American. Americans already eat almost 50% of calories from animal products, and as a result of such nutritional extravagance we have seen a tragic skyrocketing in cancer rates and heart disease rates in the last 50 years.

In spite of the hokum and hoopla, as a result of hundreds of scientific studies, the link between animal protein and various cancers is as solid now as the link between smoking and lung cancer. This is not to say that animal foods are the sole cause of cancer, but clearly it is the increased consumption of animal product and the decreased consumption of fresh produce that has the most powerful effect on cancer risks.

These recent books aren't new, just a rehash of the same diets advocated years ago. They are just as dangerous today. Unfortunately, the lay public has always been easily taken in by quick, painless ways to achieve weight loss results, especially ones that let them continue their love affair with rich foods.

Dr. Atkins' book actually recommends such foods as fried pork rinds and bacon cheeseburgers. It states on the first page: "Imagine losing weight with a diet that lets you have bacon and eggs for breakfast, heavy cream in your coffee, plenty of meat and even salad with dressing for lunch and dinner!"

No wonder Dr. Atkins calls it a "diet revolution."

There are numerous ways to lose weight. However effective they may be, some are just not safe. We certainly would not advocate smoking cigarettes or snorting cocaine for weight loss (even though they may be effective) as both these methods sharply increase one's risk of a heart attack. We should not advocate weight loss via drugs, or high-protein, high-fat diets for the same reason; you will very likely pay a substantial price: diminished quality of life and diminished years of life!

A meat-based, low fiber diet like Atkins advocates with no fruit, or starchy vegetables, will almost double your risk of certain cancers, especially of meat-sensitive cancers, such as colon cancer.

Stomach and esophageal cancer, for example are linked to populations that do not consume sufficient fruit. Atkins' menus average 60-75% of calories from fat and initially contain no fruit (and the fruit that is added in later is not enough fruit, and is still added in to an otherwise unhealthy diet).

One reason he gets support is that the diet does work to cause weight loss and the conventional diet is so unhealthy and fattening that people need to do something that works. Being overweight is such a health risk that there are some real health benefits one receives from losing weight, even if the mode of weight loss places the person at increased risk. Losing weight, even by a high-protein, high-fat, low-fiber diet will lower triglycerides, decrease insulin resistance, and lower blood pressure, for example.

Since these high-protein/high-fat diets strongly forbid refined carbohydrates and junk food and the nutritionally depleted white pasta and bread most Americans live on, and recommend the dieter consume hundreds of dollars of nutritional supplements each month, they may offer more micronutrient density than the diet the person was on prior. However, no matter how much supplements and psyllium fiber are prescribed, it is simply impossible to make up for the destructive effects of so much cooked animal products and so little fibrous produce.

It is indeed difficult to believe so many people can't see through this insanity, and actually take everything we know about cancer prevention and longevity, and do the exact opposite. The diet is completely opposed to our primate heritage, with almost no fiber, utilizing the precise foods known to be the primary causes of cancer and heart attacks. The foods that have been shown to prevent cancer such as fruit, and green leafy vegetables have been specifically excluded from the diet. Then they are told to take supplements to make up for the deficiencies. Does this make sense to you?

So how does this diet work? How can you eat all the fat that you want and still lose weight?

When the body can't find enough carbohydrates to properly run its machinery, it produces ketones, an emergency fuel that can be utilized in times of crisis or fasting.

Built into our genetic code is the ability to survive periods of time without food, such as periods of food scarcity, or natural disasters. Since we are primates, designed by nature to survive on a plant-based diet, rich in carbohydrates; when our cells realize they are not receiving sufficient fuel (glucose), the body receives messages to dip into its fat reserves to produce ketones as an emergency fuel. Ketones rise in our bloodstream and the body begins to lose fat in spite of a large consumption of high fat animal foods.

This plan works to cause weight loss much in the same manner as an insulin dependent diabetic. The high levels of sugar can't enter the cells without insulin, so the cells are still starving for glucose. Ketones then flood the bloodstream, and loss of body fat occurs.

One pays a substantial price from such a diet which causes chronic ketosis. Besides the increased cancer risk, the kidneys are placed under increased stress and will age more rapidly. It can take many, many years for such damage to be detected by blood tests, and by the time it is detected, irreversible damage might have already occurred. The blood tests that monitor kidney function do not begin to raise red flags until more than 80% of the kidneys have become non-functional.

Even in my private medical practice, I have already seen numerous diabetic patients who have permanently damaged their kidneys as a result of attempting weight loss and diabetic control with high-protein diets. One diabetic patient, John Lyle, lost weight after being a patient at The Atkins' Center, and his diabetes did improve, but his creatinine, a marker of kidney function went from 1.2 pre-Atkin's to 2.3 when he stopped one year later. This represents a loss of 95% of his kidney function in one year while on the Atkins' diet.

He was not informed at The Atkins' Center that a plant-based diet of natural foods would also cause fast, effortless and permanent weight loss and cure his diabetes without causing him serous health risks. John was angry he wasn't given such a choice.

It is the extra weight, the fat on the body, and the excessive dietary fat that creates this condition, that causes "insulin resistance." As long as one successfully loses weight, carbohydrates are not a problem to the diabetic. Remember, losing weight healthfully is the key.



See also:
AtkinsFacts.org
Fact or Fiction: "High protein diets are great for losing weight"
Protein Propaganda (a very compelling and excellent explanation of protein myths)

The Great Debate: High vs. Low Protein Diets

The Skinny on Atkins (a long, but very detailed and well referenced article that contains what various experts think of the Atkins diet)

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