I wrote a blog about this in June. But once again, the U.S. News and World Report has updated its rankings of the “best” diets to include a new category of nutrition and safety. The DASH diet came out on top (again) while Atkins weighed in at #20. According to the article, Atkins has “way too much fat and too few carbs, in the view of the experts, who questioned whether dieters can build a nutritious and safe diet with the severe restrictions imposed on veggies, whole grains and fruits. Absent long-term safety data that might indicate otherwise, the panel put Atkins at the bottom of the pack.”
The U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines were used to determine the “nutritional completeness” of the diets included in the rankings. And since these guidelines focus on low-fat recommendations versus low-carb, it’s logical that Atkins surpassed the suggested daily amounts of total fat and will come up far short on carbs. Based on the Atkins score and rating it seems the panelists are not fully aware of the studies and research
A few key points that the “experts” did not seem to take into account:
**The Atkins Diet is designed to “flip the body’s metabolic switch” from burning carbs to burning fat. Graduated carb introduction helps avoid blood sugar and insulin spikes, which cause hunger and cravings resulting in overeating and weight gain. As a result, hunger and cravings are reduced more quickly with a low-carb approach than they would be with a low-calorie/ high carb diet. In fact, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Obesity, those on a low-carb diet had significantly larger decreases in cravings for carbohydrates/starches and preferences for high-carbohydrate and high-sugar foods. The low-carb diet group reported being less bothered by hunger compared to the low-fat diet group.
**Although the fat level is higher on Atkins than low calorie/high carb standard diet – our menu plan actually contains a majority of mono-saturated fats, and is so flexible that even vegetarians can be on Atkins. Fat is burned for energy on Atkins and does not pose the health risk associated with a high carb/ high fat diet.
** Atkins is an effective plan for the millions of Americans that have a reduced ability to process carbohydrates – known as carb intolerance.
**A diet high in simple carbohydrates puts stress on the body causing spikes in blood sugar and a rush of insulin from the pancreas, followed by a drop in blood sugar causing hunger and cravings. Over time, the body can lose its ability to metabolize these carbs and becomes resistant to the rush of insulin. In turn, this can become metabolic syndrome, which is a condition where the body has a decreased ability to metabolize carbohydrates (carb intolerance).
**Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a condition characterized by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. It is estimated that 34 million Americans have metabolic syndrome. The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of both Type 2 diabetes and CVD. A study published in Nutrition & Metabolism found that carbohydrate restriction improved all of the features of metabolic syndrome. A next step with metabolic syndrome, if left uncorrected, is Type 2 diabetes which affects more than 25 million people today.
**In addition, Atkins has many scientifically-proven health benefits that have been demonstrated in multiple research trials.
–Independent third-party clinical research has found that Atkins reduces risk factors for heart-disease, insulin resistance and diabetes. One example is a two year trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine³, which showed a low-carbohydrate diet is associated with favorable changes in cardiovascular disease risk factors.
And as far as the suggestion that the Atkins Diet is lacking in long-term research studies and is also deficient in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, I beg to differ. Atkins is the leading low-carb weight-loss plan that provides quick, satisfying and balanced weight loss based on an extensive body of scientific research—more than 60 published, peer-reviewed journals. In addition, Independent third-party clinical research has found that Atkins reduces risk factors for heart disease, insulin resistance and diabetes. The Atkins Diet teaches individuals to find their personal ideal carb balance. The Atkins Diet does not overly restrict vegetables, fruits or whole grains. From day one, Atkins encourages the consumption of vegetables. Throughout the plan, the dieter can eat more vegetables on a daily basis than is recommended by USDA guidelines. Atkins restricts only high-sugar fruits—beginning by re-introducing berries as early as the third week. Atkins allows all the cancer-fighting superfoods, such as berries, colorful vegetables, seeds and nuts. We introduce “healthy” carbs gradually until each person’s body reaches the level they can process and not gain weight. Some people are just not able to process the amount of carbs recommended by the USDA without gaining weight. We feel our approach is appropriate for those for whom a traditional high-carb diet hasn’t been effective—those who are carb intolerant. We do focus on fat, but a balance of fats that are commonly agreed to be healthy, such as mono-unsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado. If you wish, you can easily avoid almost all saturated fats while on Atkins by following the plan as a vegetarian.
For all of you who have had success with Atkins, it is certainly the best diet for you. U.S. News and World Report is planning to release diet reviews again in January. Hopefully their panel of experts will give Atkins a closer look.
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Do diet rankings affect your opinion of a diet? What makes Atkins work for you? I’d love to hear! Please share your thoughts with the Atkins Community and also let me know what you’d like to hear about in the future.