Is the Atkins or South-beach diet healthy?
Jemma Downes, Canada
The Atkins or South-beach diet is based on a low carbohydrate and high protein and fat content. Which means the nutrition basically consists of meat, chicken, fish, eggs or cheese with some green and salad vegetables, butter and oil. All carbohydrate-containing foods such as fruit, many vegetables, bread, cereals, rice, potatoes, pasta, biscuits, sugar and so on must be avoided, as must milk and yogurt. Weight loss can be very rapid in the first phase, and a lot of this seems to come from fluid loss. Diets high in carbohydrate (especially in the form of simple sugars) increase the body’s production of insulin, and insulin invites body cells to store fat.
The theory of Atkins diet is to restrict (almost all) carbohydrate to avoid high insulin levels and lose weight. In addition, after the carbohydrate stores are exhausted, the diet makes the body produce ketones out of fat. The reason is, the body - especially the brain- needs carbohydrates to work properly. They can be substituted for a while with ketones.The diet has many critics, because it is high in fat and low in nutritious foods such as fruit and whole grains. There is limited research about how healthy it is in the longer term especially in relation to cardiovascular diseases and a higher risk of diabetes.
At this point Atkins, or other similar “low carb diets” are definitely not recommended for a long term use. So our advice is go for a proper hypocaloric balanced diet with a high content on whole grain carbohydrates (the increase of blood glucose level and production of insulin is slower) for promoting weight loss and long-term health.