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Atkins diet revisited

Trash the baguettes and bring on the braai – the Atkins diet is back.

07 Jun 2007

In a recent year-long international study, the controversial Atkins diet came out tops for weight loss. But there are a few factors you should consider before banning carbs forever.

Compared to the Zone, LEARN and Ornish diets, Atkins promises greater weight loss, at least in the short term. On average, Atkins dieters lost 4,7 kilograms over 12 months. Developed by Dr Robert Atkins you replace carbohydrates with fat and protein. Atkins says that up to two-thirds of calories should come from fat. The Atkins diet comprises four phases:

Induction can last from two weeks to a year. Stick to the rules and you can lose up to 10% of your excess body weight. Limit your carbs to 20 grams daily. Cut out fruit, bread, pasta and grains and don’t deviate from the list of acceptable foods.

During Ongoing Weight Loss, re-introduce carbs in increments of 5 grams weekly. It's important to find your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL), which is the uppermost limit of carbs you can eat without gaining weight.

Pre-Maintenance starts when you're within 3 to 5 kilograms of your goal weight. Work out your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance (CCLM) and control your portions and appetite by eating low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates such as sweet potato and brown rice.

In the Lifetime Maintenance phase,your weight will fluctuate somewhat. Stick to the CCLM and eat low GI carbs or you risk gaining the excess weight back.

Will I lose weight quickly?
Yes. This energy reduction leads to weight loss. Carbs are stored in the body as glycogen, eating protein instead of low-fibre foods also makes you feel more full, so you tend not to overindulge. Combined with ketosis – the fat-burning process which actually suppresses the appetite – it’s easy to see why weight loss occurs.

Will I keep the weight off permanently?
Not necessarily. There are no longterm studies tracing the efficacy and,importantly, the safety, of the diet. It isn't a permanent solution to obesity and you risk becoming a yo-yo dieter as you can regain the excess weight when energy and carb intake increases, she says.

What precautions should I take?
Atkins dieters run the risk of developing kidney stones because of the high-fat, high-protein nature of the diet. You should have your uric acid levels tested and take gout-prevention medication. In the first week, you can expect to suffer temporary sugar and caffeine withdrawal symptoms and suffer headaches, nausea, cramps and brain fog. If you suffer from gout, kidney problems, or are diabetic or pregnant,you shouldn’t follow Atkins.

What's the SA Dietetics Association's take on the diet?
SA dieticians are concerned by the lack of conclusive scientific evidence of the long-term safety and efficiency of the Atkins Diet. The Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) suggests safe alternatives such as a lowfat, balanced, low GI diet. Afterall there's no magic solutions permanent weight .



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