August 26, 2003
Daily Mail (London)
by Jenny Hope
DOCTORS have blamed the Atkins diet for a worrying increase in the problem of constipation a key factor in causing bowel cancer.
Specialists claim that rising sales of laxatives and other remedies in the last two years are being driven by the enormous popularity of the diet.
A report highlights the down side of the high-fat, high-protein, low- carbohydrate regime which has helped celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Zeta- Jones and Renee Zellweger stay slim.
It suggests Atkins can result in a range of bowel problems and also reduced sex drive.
One of Britain’s top bowel experts, Roger Leicester, said: ‘Bowel cancer is more likely to develop when people eat a lot of animal fat and there is slow-moving transit of food through the gut.
‘The Atkins diet results in both these things happening. It may work in the short term to kick- start weight loss but I’m concerned about the implications for people who stick to it in the long term.’ Mr Leicester, a consultant colorectal surgeon at St George’s Hospital, South London, said a report on better bowel health makes clear that a healthy diet means eating much more fibre than Atkins allows.
‘The fact that vegetables, bread and pasta dishes are generally avoided by those on the Atkins diet means that, as a result, they are not getting enough fibre in their diet,’ he said.
For the first fortnight, dieters are told to restrict carbohydrate intake to 20g a day which supplies only a fraction of the fibre required for a healthy diet.
Mr Leicester said lack of fibre triggers constipation, which causes bloating and swelling, and psychological problems such as lethargy and lack of sex drive.
The warning comes after leading nutritionist Dr Susan Jebb claimed Atkins posed a long-term health risk.
Invented 30 years ago by Dr Robert Atkins, the diet is based on the theory that cutting down carbohydrate intake alters the body’s chemistry, turning it from a carbohydrate-burning machine into one that burns fat.
He recommends using dietary fibre supplements, while eating salad vegetables and others such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and spinach is also encouraged.
Possible dangers, however, include kidney problems and bone loss.
And it has since emerged a 16-year-old girl died after the Atkins diet was blamed for altering her metabolic balance and triggering heart failure.
The report, The Digestive State of the Nation, shows that over-the-counter sales of laxatives such as Senokot and Fybogel, a fibre supplement, have shot up from 35.4million in 2001 to 41.3million last year.
Mr Leicester said: ‘It’s like a blockage on the M25. To deal with a crash you should be taking immediate remedial measures such as a laxative or supplement.
‘But to avoid congestion you need a healthy diet for life that contains proper amounts of fibre from fruit and vegetables combined with exercise which stop the problems in the first place.’