Dangers of the Atkins Diet
by Joel Fuhrman, MD
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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.
or Fiction: "High protein diets are great for losing weight"
Propaganda (a very compelling and excellent explanation
of protein myths)
The Great Debate: High
vs. Low Protein Diets
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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