The Atkins Diet Explained

The Atkins diet is much different than all other diets, which are focussed on limiting fats in the diet. The Atkins diet is the opposite, it instructs you to eat all the fats you want but limit the carbohydrates. It is so strict in fact, at least for the first couple of weeks, that intake of carbohydrates should be almost zero.

Dr. Atkins's theory is that it is the carbohydrates that do not belong in our diets. In looking at the history of humans the consumption of carbohydrates has increased to super high consumption amounts. He believed that the human body is not meant to process so much carbohydrates, especially the processed kind. This way of thinking has some merit. About 20 years ago our food industry, along with the government, started pushing high carbohydrate, low fat diets. There was a strong belief that fat is bad for us and it makes us fat. With limited knowledge this would seem to make sense, e.g. eating fat makes you fat. However, the body is not that simple. In fact, since promoting high carbohydrate diets the obesity problem in North America has only gotten worse. Some experts now consider obesity an epidemic, affecting younger and younger people each year.

This is how it works. Carbohydrates is the simplest form of fuel your body can use. There are simple carbohydrates (fructose, galactose, lactose, sucrose, and maltose) and are found in foods such as breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, pasta, oats, rice, etc. Now, no one is saying that these foods are bad for you, except for the effect they have on obesity.

Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas in response to the consumption of carbohydrates. The main purpose of insulin is to balance the carbohydrates you have just eaten. Insulin does this by facilitating the absorption of carbohydrates by the cells in your body (all kinds of cells: nerves, muscles, and fat cells). If you are a thin person, and are very active, these carbohydrates are used right away to supply the body with energy. However, for most of us this energy is converted to fat and stored in these cells. So you see, eating pasta, if the energy is not needed and most of the time it is not, then it is changed to fat for storage. This is how high carbohydrate diets have made people obese. This process will take place even if there is no fat and no protein in the diet. Another point to note is that some people are more prone to becoming obese by this process than others. It depens on how their body responds to the carbohydrates hey consume. This is why you see some people that eat a lot but don't gain weight.

By restricting carbohydrates you force your body to start using calories obtained from fat and proteins, as well as from stored fat reserves. Along with this process there is now very little insulin produced because there are no carbohydrates that are consumed.

As a result the body starts to use fats and proteins for energy. However, you need to be aware that many experts believe that this is unhealthy if maintained for more than a couple of weeks as it places a lot of stress on the kidneys. When the body is forced to break down too much fat for energy there is a bi-product called ketone bodies. This can have an affect on the blood, particularly to the pH levels. The kidneys have to deal with this and can be stressed.

Other draw backs include:

  • Higher risk of kidney stones.
  • Higher risk of kidney infections.
  • Higher levels of the bad cholesterol (LDL).
  • Bad breath, caused by the ketosis process.
  • Constipation from the lack of fiber which is usually consumed with natural carbohydrates.

You may have known some people who have tried the Atkins diet and it may have worked for them. But, the long term results are much more important than the short term achievements. According to the program limited amounts of carbohydrates can be re-introduced. But the concern is that is is very difficult to maintain this level of carbohydrate restriction.

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