Atkins Diet Better Than Most?

Almost all popular diets work in the short term simply because dieters are eating fewer calories. The problem with these fad diets is that they are almost impossible to stick to in the long term so as soon as you go off the diet you’ll most likely gain the weight you lost.

The key to long term weight loss is to make permanent changes to your eating habits and lifestyle. This doesn’t mean to say that all diets are without merit. For example, adding small, lean servings of protein to your diet can help reduce hunger, leading to the consumption of fewer calories. This is one of the benefits of the Atkins diet as reported in a recent study:

Arne Astrup at the University of Copenhagen also suspects the advantage of Atkins may simply be fewer calories, not a changed metabolism. This is because eating more protein fills you up more per calorie, so you eat less.

The study also showed that dieters on the Atkins diet lost more weight than those on other popular diets:

Christopher Gardner and colleagues at Stanford University in California, US, put 311 overweight women between 20 and 50 years old on either Atkins, or one of three other popular diets:

  • Zone, which cuts carbs less severely than Atkins
  • LEARN, a low-fat, high-carb diet based on US national guidelines
  • Ornish, an extreme low-fat plan

After a year, all the women had lost some weight. The Atkins group lost more on average than the groups on all other diets.

One of the largest studies to date has found that overweight women lost a little more weight on the popular Atkins diet than on three other well-known diet plans. However, the effect was small.

Again, the problem is sticking with such a restrictive diet in the long term as well as the potential health problems of eating such a diet in the long term. The same study mentioned the concern of a high fat diet on cholesterol levels:

There are fears that the increased fat consumed with the Atkins diet could lead to cardiovascular problems. In this study, however, the Atkins group had the best “good” cholesterol, blood triglycerides (fat), and blood pressure. “Apparently the predicted adverse effect of more saturated fat in the diet is counterbalanced by losing even just slightly more weight,” Gardner told New Scientist.

It’s important to find what diet plan works best for you and one way to do that is to take the best parts of popular diets to make a personalised plan suitable for you and your family. For example, you might want to choose a diet with moderate levels of protein yet fairly low in fat also. Your doctor or dietician can help you with this to be sure you are getting a balanced diet as well as monitoring your progress.