One of the most popular, yet highly controversial, low-carb diet plans on the market today is the Atkins diet. Launched in 1972 by Dr. Robert Atkins with his book "Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution," this diet plan is designed to help you achieve results by turning your body from a fat-storing system into a fat-burning system.
The Premise: The Atkins diet theorizes that an excess of carbohydrates in your diet causes your body to over-produce insulin in order to breakdown the sugar that is created from those carbohydrates. The more insulin your body needs to produce, the more metabolic problems you develop. This can not only lead to diabetes, but it can also slow down your metabolism, leading to weight-gain.
The Diet: The Atkins diet plan features a nutritional approach to eating, concentrating on eating whole, unprocessed foods that are low in sugar. By restricting your carb intake and increasing your protein and fat intake, the Plan encourages your body to burn fat for energy instead of sugar from the carbohydrates. Since proteins and fat typically require more time to metabolize, you may also feel less hungry and stay satisfied longer.
The Atkins diet is a 4-phase plan, beginning with the "induction" phase that is designed to jumpstart your metabolism into losing weight quickly. Second is the "ongoing weight-loss" phase that teaches you how to add back in some of the foods you were restricted from in phase 1, while still promoting weight-loss. The third phase is "pre-maintenance," and it is designed to teach you to keep losing those last 10 pounds, while preparing for a lifetime maintenance program. The final phase is "lifestyle maintenance" and is for those who have achieved their goal weight and are committed to sustaining it for life.
What to get excited about: Although the Atkins diet plan is considered controversial because of the high protein and fat content of the diet, more than 50 different studies have supported the science of the diet. Most will readily agree that the plan improves participants' Triglyceride levels, HDL cholesterol, and promotes weight-loss. It also works with your body to reduce cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes.The plan is flexible and can easily be tailored for the user, not requiring special foods or menus. It encourages moderate exercise and focuses on lifestyle adjustments that will keep the weight off long-term.
Things to consider: Most of the concerns associated with the Atkins plan are the long-term effects of a diet high in protein, high in fat, and low in carbs, depriving the body of the nutrients and fiber derived from grains. Most professionals agree that more studies are necessary to fully understand the benefits and the concerns of a high-protein, low-carb diet. In addition, participants have complained they get bored with the protein-rich foods and miss the carbohydrates they often crave as comfort foods.
The Verdict: This plan is considered the most popular of the low carbohydrate diets, but is also controversial world-wide. Many participants boast great weight-loss success, as well as overall health improvement. However, because of the high protein and fat component of the diet plan, most health care professionals agree that more research must be done to accurately determine the full extent of the plan's benefits and risks.
Remember, regardless of what diet program your interested in, it is always important that you consult your personal physician before beginning a new diet program.