Dispelling the myths about the Atkins diet

Atkins Nutritionals Inc., a leading player in the weight-loss industry, offers a powerful lifetime approach to weight loss and weight management. The Atkins Nutritional Approach™ focuses on a healthy diet with reduced levels of refined carbohydrates and sugars and encourages the consumption of lean protein, high fiber, vegetables, fruits and good fats. Backed by scientific research and consumer success stories, this approach allows the body to burn more fat and work more efficiently, while helping individuals to feel less hungry, more satisfied and more energetic.

In 1963, Atkins™ founder, Dr. Robert C. Atkins, began to formalize the controlled carbohydrate approach based on a series of articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Troubled by the growing obesity and weight-related health problems among his patients and the U.S. population, Dr. Atkins studied how this nutritional approach led to successful weight loss/weight management in addition to an improvement in many weight-related health issues. In 1972, he published the first edition of “Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution.”

In the 1990’s, many Americans began to take notice and started following the recommendations made by Atkins, reducing their carbohydrate intake to lose/control their weight and live more healthfully. This beginning of the “low carb revolution” was soon followed by thousands of people, many who are still loyal to the Atkins plan today. Because of the tremendous consumer interest, a number of similar “copy cat” low carb diets emerged, fueling many misconceptions that still surround the Atkins Nutritional Approach today. Here are the facts:

#1 Myth: The Atkins Diet™ doesn’t work.

Fact: The Atkins Diet does work. Atkins is backed by over 50 studies validating the diet’s principals and its
success rate for weight loss and weight management. One recent example is the result of a two-year study released on July 17, 2008 by The New England Journal of Medicine, comparing a low-carbohydrate diet like the Atkins Nutritional Approach™ with Mediterranean and low-fat diets. It found that low-carbohydrate diets are more effective in achieving weight loss than the other diets, and supported cardiovascular health with favorable cholesterol and cholesterol profile results. Also, NIH funded a Stanford University Diet Study published March 7, 2007 in the Journal of American Medical Association. This study found that the Atkins Diet delivered the strongest weight loss results with the most beneficial metabolic effects among four top diet regimens. (The study compares Atkins against the Zone, LEARN and Ornish diets). Unlike other diets, Atkins is not based on limiting calories and deprivation, but rather choosing the right nutrient-dense foods that allow the body to feel fuller while burning more fat and working more efficiently.

#2 Myth: The Atkins Diet is unhealthy.

Fact: Atkins is a natural and effective approach to weight loss and weight management. The Atkins Diet encourages consumption of a healthy balance of nutrient dense foods: lean protein, a full array of fiberous vegetables and fruits and good fats while limiting refined carbohydrates, refined sugar and trans fats. Choosing foods in this manner allows the body to burn more fat and work more efficiently while helping individuals to feel less hungry, more satisfied and more energetic. An ever-growing body of research demonstrates the health benefits of a controlled-carbohydrate approach in the face of the standard American diet of white flour, sugar and other junk foods. Simply put, the Atkins Nutritional Approach (ANA) is indeed a healthier, more balanced way of eating and living.

#3 Myth: The Atkins Diet is unbalanced and means only eating rich foods like steak, eggs and bacon and no fruits or vegetables.

Fact: Actually, the Atkins Diet allows you to eat ample portions of vegetables, and in the later phases, more nutrient-dense carbohydrates like fruits and whole grains. It’s only during the first of the four phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach, called Induction, that more lean protein is encouraged as a way to supercharge the body’s fat burning power and jump-start weight loss. But not everyone needs to start at Induction to see positive results with Atkins. After the typical two-week Induction phase, if you choose to start here, the Atkins program allows you to gradually expand your food choices so you can ultimately enjoy a healthy balance of the nutrient-dense foods from a variety of food groups – lean protein, a full array of colorful, fiberous vegetables and fruits, nuts, legumes, and if your metabolism allows, whole grains and good fats – all while reducing levels of refined carbohydrates, refined sugars, and trans fats. When it comes to the four food groups, the Atkins Diet includes a variety of foods from each one.
The plan provides helpful guidelines to help select the best options, steering you away from the starchier varieties. It’s only during the first of the four phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach, called Induction, that more lean protein is encouraged as a way to supercharge the body’s fat burning power and jump-start weight loss. But not everyone needs to start at Induction to see positive results with Atkins. After the typical two-week Induction phase, if you choose to start here, the Atkins program allows you to gradually expand your food choices so you can ultimately enjoy a healthy balance of the nutrient-dense foods from a variety of food groups – lean protein, a full array of colorful, fiberous vegetables and fruits, nuts, legumes, and if your metabolism allows, whole grains and good fats – all while reducing levels of refined carbohydrates, refined sugars, and trans fats. When it comes to the four food groups, the Atkins Diet includes a variety of foods from each one. The plan provides helpful guidelines to help select the best options, steering you away from the starchier varieties.

#4 Myth: The Atkins Diet doesn’t allow you to eat any carbohydrates.

Fact: People frequently mistake the Induction phase for the entire Atkins program. During this initial phase, the plan allows you to eat 20 net carbs daily, with 12 net carbohydrates per day coming from a full array of colorful nutrient-dense vegetables. After the Induction phase is completed, you increase your carbohydrate count gradually until you reach your own carbohydrate tolerance level and your goal weight. For some, this number can be as much as 120 carbs per day of nutrient-dense foods, which includes fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. What makes Atkins different from other diet programs is that you can choose your starting point on the Atkins plan. Depending upon your weight and overall health, you can personalize the dietto suit your individual needs, perhaps starting at a later phase or moving from one phase of the program to another as your needs change. So if you’re not looking to lose a significant amount of weight, but just maintain your current weight or reduce your reliance on carbs in your diet, you can begin with Phase 2, called Ongoing Weight Loss, where the net carbohydrate level is higher and more foods are included. In sum, Atkins is more than a diet, it is a helpful eating tool that not only leads to weight loss and weight management, but also helps you develop strong eating habits that contribute to overall health and well being.

#5 Myth: The Atkins Diet allows you to eat all the bacon and eggs you want.

Fact: During the kick-off Induction phase, Atkins suggests you incorporate meals with specific amount of eggs and bacon to help you start off successfully. But Atkins is not an egg and bacon diet. In fact, during Induction – and throughout the four phases – the Atkins diet also incorporates a wide variety of lean protein choices that include fish, poultry, lean meat, eggs and soy. However, just because protein is encouraged, following the Atkins plan is not a license to gorge. When following the plan, each of the food groups should be enjoyed in moderation. Following Atkins doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want as long as it is low carb.

#6 Myth: The Atkins Diet is too restrictive.

Fact: Contrary to popular belief, the Atkins Diet allows you to consume a wide variety of foods, all framed within a context of eating fewer refined carbohydrates and refined sugars, and eating more of the right foods. One of the keys to success with the Atkins approach is learning to eat nutrient-dense carbohydrates for the rest of your life. These are foods that are packed with the most antioxidant vitamins and healthful phytochemicals relative to the amount of carbohydrates--so you’re getting the most “bang” for your carbohydrate “buck.” Once you reach your goal weight and determine how many carbohydrates you can consume each day to maintain that weight, most people can enjoy a wide variety of food choices that include protein choices, vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, legumes, and whole grains.

#7 Myth: Atkins is a fad diet.

Fact: Atkins is not a fad. In fact, thanks to the attention that Atkins brought to the role of carbohydrates in the diet, many Americans today have changed the way they eat. According to the Natural Marketing Institute, 44 percent of the American adult population today controls their carbohydrate intake. There are millions of men and women who have found and continue to find success with the Atkins Nutritional Approach.At the same time, a growing body of peer-reviewed research also continues to support the fact that the Atkins Diet works and leads to successful weight loss/management along with a variety of other health benefits.

#8 Myth: Dr. Atkins died of a heart attack.

Fact: Dr. Atkins died as a result of a serious head injury from a fall that occurred April 8th, 2003. Hospital records detail the clinical course that occurred following arrival of Emergency Medical Services through the entirety of his hospitalization, confirming that after losing consciousness on the way to the hospital, Dr. Atkins condition failed to improve despite emergency neurosurgical treatment. Dr. Atkins was adamant about not wanting life support, and when his wishes were honored, he passed away on April 17th when ventilator life support was withdrawn.Near the end of his life, Dr. Atkins was struggling with the effects of cardiomyopathy, and he did not hide that fact. Cardiomyopathy is a serious and progressive condition caused by a viral infection. Though this condition weakened his heart, its cause was clearly related to an infection and not his diet.

#9 Myth: People following the Atkins Nutritional Approach suffer from lack of energy due to the lack of carbohydrates.

Fact: The body is equipped to use two sources of energy; carbohydrate and fat. When carbs are low enough, the body will switch to fat burning, which is our back up fuel system.Lack of energy may occur in the first few days of doing Atkins, while the body adapts to switching metabolic pathways. It typically takes about three to five days for the body to switch from sugar metabolism to fat metabolism. When your body becomes accustomed to burning fat for fuel, these symptoms go away.

#10 Myth: The Atkins Diet promotes a liberal intake of high-fat meats and dairy products that raise cholesterol levels, ultimately leading to heart disease.

Fact: The Atkins Nutritional Approach recommends the inclusion of all types of fats balancing food choices so that a healthy ratio of fats is obtained. Despite the common belief that the Atkins Nutritional Approach is about steak, eggs and bacon primarily, we encourage individuals to consume healthy protein choices consisting of fish, poultry, meats, eggs/egg whites along with dairy products. In addition, consumption of olive oil, nuts, seeds along with other plant-based food choices provide additional healthy fat intake for well-balanced meal selections.Research conducted over the past few years on the Atkins Nutritional Approach (ANA) demonstrates that the ANA, when followed correctly, provides a balance of monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats from a variety of sources and has consistently demonstrated its safety and efficacy. It is important to note that in all of these studies, which included saturated fat, participants had lowered cardiovascular risk factors and none of the problems claimed to be associated with saturated fat. One must appreciate the fact that all fats are mixtures of the three types of fatty acids, monos, polys, and saturated. Even olive oil, the gold standard for healthy monounsaturated fats contains 15 percent saturated fats. A lean cut of steak, which is often viewed as unhealthy, contains 51 percent monounsaturated fat.

#11 Myth: Because it excludes fruits, vegetables and grains, Atkins is deficient in nutrients. 


Fact: The Atkins Nutritional Approach does not exclude fruits, vegetables and grains. The initial Induction phase of Atkins, which people often mistake for the entire program, is the strictest phase, permitting 20 grams of net carbohydrates. However, 60 percent of those come in the form of vegetables including green leafy salad, as well as nutrient-dense, high fiber, vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, eggplant and spinach.
The concern for the phytochemical content of the Atkins Diet is unwarranted since the diet encourages the individual to consume a minimum of 12 net carbohydrates of non-starchy vegetables daily, increasing the amount along with the intake of low-glycemic fruits, nuts/seeds, legumes and whole grains after the first several weeks of induction. This is more than most Americans consume on a regular basis.