In a bid to help people lose weight, some individuals have come up with various commercial diets especially in the Western part of the world. Just what is the Atkins diet, and what's the bottom line behind its safety and long term effectiveness. The diet was ‘invented’ by Dr Robert Atkins. Atkins has often been called the “Father of Modern Low-Carbohydrates Diets.” The core of the Atkins program is 1) a diet of lower carbohydrate intake to intervene into what Atkins reckoned to be the underlying causes of overweight and 2) mechanisms to tailor the diet to the individual. In this diet, overall carbohydrate intake (carbohydrates include rice, kenkey, banku, fufu, etc) is reduced without much regard to where it comes from. This diet seeks to restrict/ eliminate added sugars and refined grains (eg soft drinks, minerals, ice cream, polished grains etc) for the rest of your life.

The Atkins diet has four phases: Induction, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL), Pre-maintenance, and Maintenance. The length of these phases depends mainly upon how overweight a person is and how they respond to the diet. The first two weeks of the Atkins diet is termed the "induction" period. During this time, dieters are permitted to eat no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. This translates into a diet consisting of nearly unlimited meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, cheeses, oils, butter, margarine, bacon, and sausages. The 20 gram carbohydrates limit is generally derived from trace amounts of carbohydrates in sauces, cheeses and a couple cups of vegetables daily. During these two weeks, participants are not allowed to have any milk, fruits, grains, cereals, breads, potatoes, corn and carrots. After the first two weeks, dieters can begin adding about 5 more grams of carbohydrates to their diet weekly. Generally, a diet consisting of no more than 40-90 grams of carbohydrates is what dieters must stick to long term, in the "maintenance" phase. Even this is a scant amount of carbohydrate compared to what health experts and major health organizations recommend.

Current estimates are that nearly 33-50% of cancers can be prevented through a healthy diet and there is a link between cancer prevention and a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Many studies also show a link between a high fat diet, high intake of red meats and increased incidence of cancer. The Atkins diet defies all this research and translates into a diet that may put an individual at increased cancer risk. While many following the Atkins plan will never suffer any serious or major side effects, probably due to inability to adhere to the diet long term, a great many have suffered consequences. For one thing, we know that extremely high protein diets, like Atkins, can lead to acidic urine. Acidic urine leaches calcium from the body, which significantly increases one's risk for osteoporosis and kidney stones. 

It is also not practical in a country like ours because our diet is mainly carbohydrates based. It is expensive in that one needs to buy Atkins book to practice the diet and one needs to be literate to read and understand the detailed instructions. One last problem is that, very few households weigh their foods and it would be difficult to calculate how much carbohydrates one is eating. In summary the high protein, low carbohydrate nature of the Atkins diet goes against basic sciences of nutrition and is not recommended.


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