It’s been a busy spring, so you might have missed it, but Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. has come out with a brand new diet book. That’s right, the low-carb kings are at it again, with a new spin on their decades-old approach to managing weight. “The New Atkins for a New You” has received mixed results from nutrition and weight management experts, but that shouldn’t be all that shocking. These guys are no strangers to controversy. In fact, they thrive on it! Here’s a brief rundown of the low-carb craze, the new book, and a few of my personal thoughts.
Atkins was all the rage a few years back, and for good reason—people lost weight. It wasn’t that surprising when you considered the makeup of the diet. You basically had to cut out almost all forms of carbohydrate, including fruits, whole grains, and even most vegetables. And obviously sweets, sugary drinks, and snack foods were taboo as well.
Think about this—researchers found that the average person cut their usual calorie intake by 1,000 calories PER DAY while on the Atkins diet! In addition, the ketosis that resulted from the diet suppressed appetite in the brain center (and caused some nasty breath too). One encouraging sign was the fact that cardiovascular disease risk factors generally improved while people were losing weight. Unfortunately, this effect wasn't permanent. These numbers often sky-rocketed once people hit weight plateaus, thanks to the copious amounts of saturated and trans fats in many of the diet's staples. In the end, you had a hard-to-follow, yet very effective, reduced-calorie diet to help you manage your weight. When enough people had enough of the diet, low-carb mania faded away, just like it did back in the 1970's.
Now, the new book is out, and it has a few new twists. Many are calling it the kinder, gentler Atkins diet, but I’m not so sure. There is more of a focus on getting carbohydrates from vegetables, which is a good thing, but the diet is still very low-carb overall. They also recommend adding salt during the induction phase, which supposedly helps to manage some of the side effects associated with severe carb depletion (think headache and fatigue). Salt may help with these issues (via the kidneys), but it's not going to do your blood pressure much good at all.
As you transition through the phases, the dieter does have a bit more flexibility, but don’t think that will make the diet that much easier to swallow this time around. They’re still recommending no more than 120 grams of carb per day, which is actually below the minimum requirement needed for proper brain function, according to the Institute of Medicine. The authors also recommend a number of supplements, presumably because the diet lacks several of the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs on a daily basis.
Frankly, not much has really changed. You still need to cut calories to lose weight, and research has proven that a wide variety of diet plans can do the trick. My advice to you? Pick one that you can stick to for the long haul. Unfortunately, Atkins is probably not it!
9/10/2010 at 9:04 PM