Atkins’ followers risk a number of serious nutritional deficiencies. In fact, some people have become so deficient on low carb ketogenic diets that they almost went blind because their optic nerves started to degenerate.[263-264]
When cutting calories, it’s especially important to eat nutrient-dense diets, but the Atkins Diet presents a double whammy; it restricts the healthiest foods, like fruit, and unrestricts some of the unhealthiest, like meat. Shortly after Atkins’ original book was published, the highly prestigious Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics concluded that the Atkins Diet was “unbalanced, unsound and unsafe.” As noted in a Medical Times review, Atkins has created a “ridiculously unbalanced and unsound” “hazardous” diet. Twenty-seven years later the Medical Letter offered an update noting that the safety of the Atkins Diet had still “not been established.”
Low carbohydrate diets like Atkins maximize the consumption of disease-promoting substances like the cholesterol, saturated fat, and industrial pollutants in meat, yet restrict one’s intake of fiber and literally thousands of antioxidants and phytochemicals found exclusively in the plant kingdom (like the carotenoids, lycopenes, bioflavenoids, phytic acid, indoles, isothiocyanates, etc.) that have “anti-aging, anti-cancer and anti-heart disease properties.” As a 2004 medical review concluded, the Atkins Diet is so “seriously deficient” in nutrition that “there is real danger of malnutrition in the long term.”
Where might then one get one’s vitamins on the Atkins Diet? From the Atkins website, of course, on sale now for just over $640 a year. Add some antioxidants and the tab is up to $1000. That is, of course, in addition to the estimated $400-$1400 the pricey Atkins food–meat and cheese–costs every month (unless one chooses to live off hot dogs).
Realizing his diet is so deficient in nutrients, Atkins prescribed no less than 65 nutritional supplements in part to help fill the nutritional gaps created by his diet. A “proper Atkins Dieter” Atkins wrote, “follows the entire program, including the supplements.” In his last edition Atkins even had a chapter entitled “Nutritional Supplements: Don’t Even Think of Getting Along Without Them.” Perhaps this is because his corporation sells them.
“Who needs orange juice,” Atkins wrote, “when a Vitamin C tablet is so handy?” Oranges, of course, contain much more than vitamin C. As Sue Radd, a world leader on phytonutrient research, put it “There’s not one vitamin pill in the world that can give you everything you need.” A review in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine agreed that the Atkins Diet is “deficient in nutrients that cannot be replaced by supplements and are excessive in nutrients that may increase the risk of mortality and chronic disease.”
Responding to the criticism that the Atkins Diet was deficient in fruits and vegetables, Atkins-funded researchers responded that people on Atkins could include a limited quantity of some vegetables “and even small amounts of fruit.” Even during later, more liberal phases of the diet, though, Atkins warned readers that eating fruit will “always be somewhat risky.” The Atkins researchers continued, “It would be prudent to take a multivitamin/mineral supplement.” A low carb diet is a low nutrition diet.