The Atkins Diet is the brainchild of Dr. Robert Atkins, who developed it from a new nutritional approach he studied in the '60's. His reference base was reportedly the Journal of the American Medical Association. Interestingly, Dr. Atkins used his diet on himself with considerable success before he began advocating it. He successfully used his diet on ten of thousands before he began writing about it in a series of books. In 1989, Dr. Atkins established the company Atkins Nutritionals in Ronkonkoma, New York. However, the company's initial success was not sustainable and he filed for bankruptcy in mid-2005. Dr. Robert Atkins himself died of a fatal injury to his head sometime in 2003.
The reasons for the company's flagging performance on the market stemmed from the Atkins Diet's loss in popularity. However, the Atkins franchise and brand name still enjoys considerable success.
The Atkins diet takes a very contrary stand to the principles of many hitherto accepted dieting theories. Rather than eliminating all saturated fats from the patient's diet, it focuses only on the so-called trans fats. Trans fats can be found in meat and dairy products, and occur as side products in industrial food processing. Trans fats have no nutritional value at all and are a major contributor to coronary hear disease. Additionally, the Atkins diet seeks to eliminate refined carbohydrates. In particular, these include sugar, flour, and high-fructose corn syrups.
The Atkins diet also refutes the much-hyped food pyramid, which suggests the quantities in which the major food categories one should eat each day. It maintains that the main culprits in obesity and other metabolic disorders are refined carbohydrates. According to the Atkins diet, focusing excessively on the elimination of dietary fats has added to the problem of obesity rather than reducing it.
The Atkins diet restricts the consumption of carbohydrates in a manner that causes the body to burn stored fat instead of its energy-giving glucose. This causes a process called ketosis, in which the liver begins to convert fats into fatty acids. The body can then use these for energy. The Atkins diet also limits the carbohydrates that affect blood sugar levels. Overall, the Atkins diet advocates whole, unprocessed foods that do not affect blood sugar levels in an adverse manner.
The Atkins diet has four distinct phases. In the induction phase, the dieter consumes no more than 20 net grams of carbohydrates per day to achieve the state of ketosis. Some dieters report weight losses of up to three to four kilograms during this phase. During the ongoing weight loss phase, the carbohydrate intake increases but stays at a level that encourages further weight loss. The dieter may consume as much as five net grams of carbohydrates each week during this phase.
In the pre-maintenance phase, the dieter increases his or her carbohydrate intake by ten net grams each week until the attainment of the so-called 'Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance'. This is the level at which the dieter maintains the current carbohydrate intake, continuing to lose weight. Finally, the lifetime maintenance phase carries on the dietary habits acquired during the preceding three phases. If the dieter finds it difficult to maintain this phase, the Atkins diet allows a temporary reversion to a previous phase.
The Atkins diet has many detractors today. However, it success record is undisputable and many people continue to swear by this revolutionary nutritional system for weight loss.