In a medical journal article entitled “Bizarre and Unusual Diets” the authors warn that the Atkins Diet had such questionable safety that it should “only be followed under medical supervision.” But what do doctors know about nutrition? Even though the United States Congress mandated that nutrition become an integrated component of medical education, as of 2004, less than half of all U.S. medical schools have a single mandatory course in nutrition. That explains the results of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that pitted doctors against patients head-to-head in a test of basic nutrition knowledge. The patients won. People off the street seem to know more about nutrition than their doctors.
Doctors can monitor for adverse effects, though. “The Atkins program falls short in insufficiently warning dieters,” another review of popular weight loss diets warns, that they “need to be monitored by a physician to ensure his or her safety.” According to the Chair of the Nutrition Department at Harvard Medical School, people on Atkins “should be monitored for orthostatic hypotension… dizziness, headaches, fatigue, irritability, gout and kidney failure.” And laboratory work should include “blood tests (glucose, blood urea nitrogen, sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate), urinalysis (specific gravity, pH, protein, and acetone) and a lipid profile. Vital signs… should be monitored at least monthly during a low carbohydrate weight-loss program.”
Perhaps one should add the expense of monthly doctor visits to the already high cost of the Atkins Diet, estimated to cost $10,000-$20,000 per year for the food and supplements.[425-428]