September 2, 2004
Atkins Diet: Does It Really Work And Is It Safe?
With over 45 million copies of the Atkins diet sold, many questions remain concerning the safety and effectiveness of the popular weight loss lifestyle.
In a Rapid Review article in the medical journal Lancet, Dr. Arne Astrup of RVA University in Copenhagen, Denmark, said there is no evidence that Atkins-style diets help people stay slim.
Three recent randomized trials looked at the long term effects of low-carbohydrate diets, and for the most part, all subjects on a low-carbohydrate diet did lose more weight over a six month period, compared to subjects on a low-fat diet. However, by 12 months, no difference was noted.
Astrup reports some heart risk factors improved in subjects on a low-carbohydrate diet, however, Astrup noted the Atkins diet is not healthy because it restricts whole-grains, fruit, and vegetables.
The absence of these foods “might increase the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease,” wrote Astrup.
Side-effects from the Atkins diet include muscle cramps, diarrhea, general weakness, and rashes.
Dr. Astrup also indicated long term studies of up to 2 years are needed to assess the effectiveness of the low-carbohydrate diets.
He recommends people who want to lose weight and keep it off, increase physical activity and eat a diet low in fat and reduced calories.