THE ATKINS DIET: Does it work in the LONG TERM?

The book called itself ‘revolutionary’. It sold more than 45 million copies making it one of the biggest selling books in history. Its message was simple: Carbohydrates are the enemy and must largely be avoided. Protein and fat are fine and you can more or less eat as much of them as you like. It gave biochemical ‘reasons’ why such a diet made you lose weight, but these explanations have been largely discounted and certainly have never been proved. It was accused of raising people’s cholesterol to dangerously high levels – but this could not be proved in clinical trials.

Slimmers all over the globe flocked to buy the book. Stories of miracle weight losses flashed across the globe. Butchers, especially those hard hit by the Mad Cow Disease fiasco, must have thought that Robert Atkins was a gift from the Almighty himself when the sales of meat went through the roof and sales of other foods went down. The level of anxiety among cows, sheep, pigs and chickens went up but nobody seemed to notice this. Even fish became disconcerted. Man had always been a carnivore but never such a voracious carnivore!

I watched these ‘miracles’ on television and read about them in almost every magazine available. There was some bad publicity and talk of dangers of the diet, but even bad publicity tends to sell books. As the publishers must have said to themselves: ‘Good publicity, bad publicity as long as they spell Atkins correctly’. Then on Friday 3rd September, 2004 the bubble might just have burst.

The men in white coats at RVA University in Copenhagen, Denmark revealed the results of an interesting study that compared the effects on obese people of a low carbohydrate diet (eg. the Atkins Diet) and a low fat and carbohydrate diet (almost any other diet other than Atkins). They wanted to see who was doing better in the relative short term (6 months after starting) and the relative long term (12 months after starting).

The results were fascinating indeed. After 6 months the Atkins-like diet did indeed produce real weight loss and outperformed the low carbohydrate diets that people have used since the mid-19th century. In this period there were no adverse effects on the body such as raised cholesterol levels. It doesn’t say anything about the notorious ‘Atkins breath’ a sign of ketosis in the body.(See my previous articles on the Atkins diet)

However after 12 months things were not so good for the Atkins dieters. A review in The Lancet, one of the most respected medical journals in the world, examined the results of THREE studies of the long term effects of the Atkins diet. After 6 months the dieters started to put on weight and after a year they had lost no more weight than people using old-fashioned diets that were low carbohydrate, low fat and did not produce the ‘Atkins breath’. But there was more disconcerting news. Professor Arne Astrup of RVA University in Copenhagen found that the Atkins groupies started to suffer from ‘headaches, muscle weakness, cramps and diarrhea’, which Astrup said could be explained by the reduced levels of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain cereals and bread that are eaten by Atkins people.

So slimmers beware of people promising miracles. Until it is proven otherwise, a moderate diet including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables remains a sensible way to lose weight. And did I forget to mention it – lots of exercise!

Homeopathic Tip of the Week: Bad Breath

Talking of bad breath in general, the most famous homeopathic remedy for bad breath is Merc. sol. If you have bad breath not due to the Atkins diet or any medical cause, you could try some Merc. sol. 6c one twice a day for two weeks and see what happens. Of course it’s better to consult a professional homeopathic doctor but Merc. sol 6 for 14 days is safe and sold over the counter at most chemists in the UK.