Millions of would-be dieters have asked their doctors, "Is the Atkins diet bad for you?" with surprising results. The split between doctors who say it is and those who say it isn't has never been wider. Physicians, nutritionists and other experts have spoken out on both sides of the divide, making it confusing for those of us who want to lose weight safely and effectively.
Most people who criticize the Atkins diet are actually criticizing just one aspect of the diet - the initial phase, when carbs are not allowed at all and the body goes into ketosis. During ketosis, the body begins to burn fats as fuel rather than carbohydrates. This is the strictest phase of the diet.
Some people will have headaches and feel sluggish during this strict phase of the diet, which they attribute to the lack of carbohydrates. This is a temporary feeling, however, and once you get through the first three days, these symptoms usually disappear, and they don't have any long-term effects on your body that make the Atkins diet dangerous.
There are some changes in the diet that occur when you start the Atkins diet that experts agree can be problematic. You may not get enough fiber, which can lead to bloating and constipation. Simply taking a fiber supplement like Metamucil or Benefiber, however, can resolve this problem.
A more serious concern is the consumption of both fats and proteins in larger quantities. Processing these foods properly can put an extra strain on the kidneys and liver. This can lead to long-term health problems for people who are already pre-disposed to liver or kidney problems; for the general population, this isn't an issue, particularly since you should only stay on Phase 1 of the diet for two weeks.
Fortunately, after the first few weeks, you will gradually begin adding some fiber to your diet, usually in the form of green vegetables and fresh, unprocessed fruits. As you progress through the four stages of the Atkins diet, you will continue adding a variety of healthy foods to your menu.
The consumption of fats is also an aspect of the Atkins diet that confuses some people. They assume that they can eat any fats they want, packing away ice cream, fried foods, and margarine in liberal amounts. In fact, Dr. Atkins would be appalled that some people have interpreted his diet this way.
Dr. Atkins never advocated eating lots of unhealthy fats. The bad fats (which raise bad cholesterol levels) are to be avoided throughout the Atkins program. These bad fats, including animal fats and artificial trans-fats found in baked goods should be minimized or eliminated.
Good fats, however, can be eaten in moderation. These are the fats that actually lower bad cholesterol and contribute to raising good cholesterol levels. These fats are found in butter (in moderation), olive oil, nuts, seeds and fresh fish.
If you are still worried that the Atkins diet is dangerous, talk to your doctor about how you should go about losing weight. If you're in otherwise good health, you can probably use the Atkins plan to shed those excess pounds, which will improve your overall health. Your doctor can tell you whether the Atkins diet is bad for you and what weight loss program is best for you.