Atkins Diet - Not All Bad?
By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has suggested that the Atkins Diet may not be as bad for our hearts as we originally thought.
The study set out to compare the weight loss and health effects of four different diets over one year.
The four diets were the Atkins Diet (a low-carb, high-fat plan), the Zone Diet (a reduced-carb plan), The LEARN plan (a low-fat, reduced-calorie plan) and the Ornish diet (a very low-fat plan).
The study included 311 overweight or obese women, who were each assigned to one of the diets and given weekly advice for two months, then a final follow-up after 12 months of starting the plan.
The researchers discovered that after a year, the women in the Atkins group had lost the most weight compared to the other groups. Atkins followers lost, on average, 4.7kg, while Zone followers lost 1.6kg, LEARN followers lost 2.6kg and Ornish followers lost 2.2kg.
Surprisingly though, those following the Atkins diet, also saw the biggest drop in their blood pressure.
Furthermore, despite the high fat and saturates content of the plan, Atkins dieters had a significant drop in triglycerides (a type of blood fat that’s linked to heart disease when levels are raised) and an increase in HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol (the type that helps to protect against heart disease.
Meanwhile, LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels did rise slightly, but this difference wasn’t significant.
The researchers conclude that a low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diet may be a feasible alternative for weight loss.
The debate about Atkins being good or bad continues to rumble on and this piece of research simply adds to it.
However, it’s unsurprising this study found positive changes in blood pressure and blood fats.
Ultimately, you would expect to see drops in blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol in anyone who has lost weight.
The Atkins diet works its magic just like any other diet – and that’s by reducing calories. If a diet restricts certain foods such as carbs, it also restricts calories and it’s this that results in weight loss.
Health experts also know that when it comes to losing weight, it’s important to follow a diet that teaches us healthy eating habits for life so that we not only shift those pounds, but also keep them off for good.
This means including a wide range of foods that are enjoyable, as well as packed with all the nutrients we need to stay healthy.
There is also increasing evidence that wholegrains – typically found in carb-rich foods like wholegrain cereals, wholewheat pasta, brown rice, oats and oatcakes – have a number of health benefits, including keeping our heart and digestive system healthy and helping us control our weight and blood sugar levels.
Unfortunately, low-carb diets such as Atkins make it difficult for us to eat three daily servings of wholegrains as recommended by most health experts.
The benefits of eating five different servings of fruit and veg are well established – and again, the Atkins diet makes it hard to achieve this, especially in the early stages of the plan.
Bottom line: there’s no need to cut out carbs from your daily diet to lose weight.
Instead, stick to your daily calorie allowance and fill up on a wide variety of foods from the four main food groups, including plenty of fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean red meat, fish and fibre-rich carbs.
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