The Atkins Diet

Published:March 5th, 2012

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Robert Atkins created a low carbohydrate diet called the Atkins diet and started writing the book called ‘The Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution’ in 1972.

Basis of Atkins diet

Atkins diet is based on consumption of low carbohydrates so that the body’s metabolism is switched to convert fat to glucose to give energy to the body. This process occurs when the insulin levels in the body are low. Insulin levels decrease when there is not enough glucose or chains of glucose called starch available in the blood stream. High carbohydrate diet increases the insulin and thus, decreases the metabolism of fat. This cause decreased use of lipids for providing energy. So to increase the metabolism of lipids or fats, there must be a lower intake of carbohydrates.

The Atkins diet relies on the fact that burning of fat expenses more calories so it is better to burn fat. Moreover, fats and proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates.
The diet is ketogenic and ketones are produced, which are the main contributors of energy in the body’s Krebs cycle. The growth hormones and epinephrine (also a hormone) infuses the fat cells to release their molecules and the triglycerides or TAG to be broken down into fatty acids. The fatty acids then reach the liver and get oxidised and converted to acetyl-CoA. This molecule enters the Krebs cycle directly. Excessive Acetyl-CoA are converted into ketones and transported into tissues. In the tissues, the ketones are converted back into Acetyl-CoA. This Acetyl-CoA is then entered into Krebs cycle. When the glucose levels in the blood are low, glucagon is produced. This glucagon converts glycogen into glucose so that the levels become normal. This process is called homeostasis. When there are no carbohydrates entering the body, glucagon is not produced and glycogen is not converted into glucose. Instead, the liver starts converting fats into free fatty acids and ketone bodies, so that the fats become the main source of energy for the body.

In Atkins diet a restricted amount of carbohydrates is allowed so that the body uses stored fats and metabolises them. The Atkins diet suggests that the largest part of our diet should contain protein rich substances, such as eggs and fish. A smaller portion should consist of dark green vegetables containing vitamins, minerals and fibres in it.

The four phases of Atkins diet

Atkins diet is composed of four phases.

Induction Phase

The first phase is the induction phase in which there is very little intake of carbohydrates, the daily value is limited to about 20 net grams, more than half of which should come from salad greens and other fruits and vegetables. A person loses 5 to 10 pounds a week during the induction phase if exercise is combined with it. Foods that are allowed during this phase include fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, a small amount of cheddar cheese, butter, olive oil and vegetable oil.

Ongoing weight loss

The next stage is ‘Ongoing weight loss’ in which the carbohydrates are increased, the amount is increased by 5 net grams every week and the person is set to find out his critical intake of carbohydrates to survive.

Pre-maintenance

In the third stage, called the pre-maintenance stage, the intake of carbohydrates is again increased, this time by 10 grams per week. During this phase the critical level of carbohydrates required for ‘maintenance’ is determined.

Lifetime maintenance

During the fourth or the Life time maintenance phase, the habits that have been acquired in the previous three phases are carried on so that the person becomes healthy.

Atkins diet has been very popular and at the same time surrounded by controversies. However, it can be followed by those who are strong willed and who want to lose substantial amounts of weight.

 

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