Colette's Blog

Atkins vs Keto: Low Carb Diet Approaches

September 26, 2018

From Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to stay-at-home moms, people are claiming the Ketogenic Diet (Keto) helps them maintain focus, increase energy and lose weight. There are keto cookbooks, keto diet books and keto products. This may seem like the latest, greatest diet, but the science behind keto, which is inherently a very low carb diet, has been around for quite some time.

Ketogenic diets were first used by physicians in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy. Dr. Atkins introduced the concept of “ketosis” to the general public in 1972 in his first book, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution. In simple terms, restrict your carbohydrates, and your body starts to burn fat as fuel. When your body goes into ketosis, your liver produces ketones, which provide an alternate fuel source for the brain, have anti-inflammatory activities and act as a mild appetite suppressant. 1

To help you choose between Keto Diet vs Atkins, let’s take a look at each diet and examine which one is better. The first question we may ask is What is the difference between the Keto Diet and Atkins? While both Atkins and Keto activate your body’s fat-burning metabolism by restricting carbs, on a standard keto diet, 75% to 90% of your daily calories come from fat, 5% to 20% come from protein and less than 5% come from carbs. 2 Unless you are trying to control seizures, this high level of fat consumption may not be necessary. This is why Keto can be confusing, because there are so many definitions and philosophies.

Meanwhile, you can still achieve and maintain the fat-burning state of ketosis by consuming 40 grams of Net Carbs or less a day, with about 65% of your daily calories coming from fat, as you do on Atkins 20 or Atkins 40:

  • Atkins 20: Fat: 60%-70%, Protein: 20% to 30%, Carbs: 5% to 10%
  • Atkins 40: Fat: 55% to 65%, Protein: 20% to 30%, Carbs: 10% to 15%

A well-constructed Keto Diet with adequate fiber from vegetables, and healthy fats from avocado, olive oil and butter, and moderate protein (not excessive protein) has been studied in peer review clinical trials for the last four decades and shown to be safe and effective. 3 Sound familiar? But with Atkins, you have structured, clear-cut phases to find your carbohydrate tolerance for weight loss and weight maintenance, and all of the benefits of a Keto Diet without the rigid restrictions of high fat and very low carb intake. 4 Eventually you have more flexibility, since you can add some  nuts, low glycemic fruits such as berries and melon, root vegetables, and Atkins products, which are keto-friendly. You can even incorporate any of Atkins’ low carb recipes. Emerging science continues to show that this low carb, low sugar, keto approach continues to be a healthy, balanced way of eating and living, and Atkins may just be the better Keto Diet approach!

Evidence Based
PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine,
2021: The Potential Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet: A Narrative Review

The benefits of the ketogenic diet might also go beyond treating existing disease, and instead help prevent chronic and degenerative disease. A literature review by Miller et al. argued that a state of nutritional ketosis… a ketogenic diet has been linked to increased global histone acetylation, with a specific increase in the expression of protective genes, such as Foxo3a.

Evidence Based
PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine,
2021: The Potential Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet: A Narrative Review

Ketogenic diets have started to increase in popularity as doctors and researchers investigate the potential benefits. Nutritional ketosis, the aspirational endpoint of ketogenic diets, is achieved by restricting carbohydrate intake…

Evidence Based
PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine,
2023: Effects of ketogenic diet on health outcomes: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have reported the benefits of ketogenic diets (KD) in various participants such as patients with epilepsy and adults with overweight or obesity. Nevertheless, there has been little synthesis of the strength and quality of this evidence in aggregate…

Evidence Based
PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine,
2007: Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial

Context: Popular diets, particularly those low in carbohydrates, have challenged current recommendations advising a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for weight loss. Potential benefits and risks have not been tested adequately…

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