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The Atkins diet is a high-protein, high-fat, very low-carbohydrate regimen. It emphasizes meat, cheese, and eggs, while discouraging foods such as bread, pasta, fruit, and sugar. It is a form of ketogenic diet.
Robert C. Atkins, a cardiologist and internist, developed the diet in the early 1970s. It first came to public attention in 1972 with the publication of Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution. It quickly became a bestseller but unlike most other fad diets, has remained popular. At last count, it had sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. Since then, Atkins authored a number of other books on his diet theme before his accidental death in 2003.
The primary benefit of the diet is rapid and substantial weight loss. By restricting carbohydrate intake, the body will burn more fat stored in the body. Since there are no limits on the amount of calories or quantities of foods allowed on the diet, there is little hunger between meals. According to Atkins, the diet can alleviate symptoms of conditions such as fatigue, irritability, headaches, depression, and some types of joint and muscle pain.
The regimen is a low-carbohydrate, or ketogenic diet, characterized by initial rapid weight loss, usually due to water loss. Drastically reducing the amount of carbohydrate intake causes liver and muscle glycogen loss, which has a strong but temporary diuretic effect. Long-term weight loss is said to occur because with a low amount of carbohydrate intake, the body burns stored fat for energy.
The four-step diet starts with a two-week induction program designed to rebalance an individual's metabolism. Unlimited amounts of fat and protein are allowed but carbohydrate intake is restricted to 15-20 grams per day. Foods allowed include butter, oil, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, and cream. The daily amount of carbohydrates allowed equals about three cups of salad vegetables, such as lettuce, cucumbers, and celery.
The second stage is for ongoing weight loss. It allows 15-40 grams of carbohydrates a day. When the individual is about 10 pounds from their desired weight, they begin the pre-maintenance phase. This gradually adds one to three servings a week of high carbohydrate foods, such as a piece of fruit or slice of whole-wheat bread. When the desired weight is reached, the maintenance stage begins. It allows 40-60 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Author Info: Ken R. Wells, Teresa G. Odle, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005
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