One of the reasons why people continue to follow the Atkins diet in spite of its harmful effects is because it works. Than doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, but it might be helpful to understand how it works.
Humans are designed to consume a plant-based carbohydrate-rich diet. The brain consumes about 80% of the energy produced by the body, and, under normal circumstances, only uses glucose for fuel. However, due to the fact that our ancestors often did not have enough food available, humans developed some incredible survival mechanisms.
The Atkins diet restricts carbohydrates, so here is what happens physiologically to the body when that occurs.
During the first few days without carbohydrate intake, the body begins breaking down muscle tissue to manufacture glucose. Fat won’t work for this purpose, since glucose cannot be manufactured from fat. After a while, the body resorts to another survival technique to keep from destroying all of its muscle mass, which is to begin breaking down stored fat. The body begins breaking down fat into a byproduct called ketones, a form of emergency fuel. As the level of ketones rises in the bloodstream, the brain begins to accept ketones as an alternative fuel. This is how the body conserves muscle and survives in times of food deprivation, or during a long-term fast.
The Atkins Diet relies on this survival mechanism. When carbohydrates are restricted, the body thinks you are starving and ketosis begins. The body loses fat, in spite of the fact that you are consuming high-fat foods. The problem is that once you go off the diet, this mechanism stops and you gain the weight back. In fact, the rebound weight gain from Atkins is the worst of any diet I have ever seen. Once you start consuming carbohydrates again, the weight begins to return, as the ketosis ends and the meat and fat you have been consuming become fattening again.
Again – the Atkins diet is a health destroying diet. The kidneys are under incredible stress as a result of consuming this diet. Protein is metabolized by the liver, and the nitrogenous wastes generated are excreted by the kidneys. These wastes have to be eliminated. All doctors are taught that a high protein diet ages the kidneys, and in fact, kidney disease has increased as our consumption of meat in the U.S. has increased. It is also an accepted medical truth that low protein diets are effective in managing liver and kidney failure.
As for Atkins’ claims that there are no adverse effects from his diet, he is not measuring the long-term effects – it takes years for kidney damage to become detectable from a blood test. By the time it can be diagnosed in this manner, more than 90% of the kidney has been destroyed and the damage may be irreparable.
The bottom line – it does not matter that the Atkins Diet is effective for weight loss. The diet accomplishes the weight loss by placing an incredible amount of stress on the system and artificially manipulating the body for a period of time. There are better, safer and more permanent ways of losing weight!