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Atkins Diet Pros and Cons
My Argumentative Essay on the Atkins Diet
By Jessica Rafol
Walking down the meat aisle at the Albertson's grocery store, I look to the right and notice a section devoted to low-carbohydrate foods. The foods range from pasta, bread, cake mix, chocolate, juices, shakes, and variety of other foods. I take a closer look and see the brand - Atkins. The Atkins diet consists primarily of meat and foods with little to no carbohydrates. Lately, there has been a great Atkins craze in America. Even grocery stores around the country are participating in the Atkins trend. However, what is the reason for the craze? Why is it against carbohydrates? Can our bodies really go without carbohydrates? Though the Atkins diet may be an efficient way to lose weight, people should avoid the Atkins Diet because the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.
The idea of the Atkins diet is that the reason Americans have been on the overweight and obese side is due to the carbohydrates in their diet. The fix in the Atkins diet is to cut carbohydrates almost completely from the meals. It is true that the average American diet contains too many carbohydrates and that people lose weight from cutting them in the diet. Why do some people lose weight on this diet? Is there some magical phenomenon that occurs in the body when high carbohydrate foods are abolished? No. The Atkins diet essentially eliminates several foods and food groups like fruits, cereals, breads, grains, starches, baked goods, dairy products, starchy vegetables, and sweets. This basically is a drop in the calorie intake- the basis of any weight loss diet. Reducing the calories in the diet, whether from protein, carbohydrate or fat, will result in weight loss. In order to lose weight, one must burn more calories than what is taken in (Hoeger, 131). This is easily done when the majority of the foods on a typical day's menu are eliminated. There's nothing revolutionary about the Atkin's diet.
The average American diet not only contains too much carbohydrates but too much of everything - sugar, salt, protein, and most of all, fat. Carbohydrates should not be omitted but limited in the diet, just as everything else should be . Kyle Gnage, a personal trainer at 24 Hour fitness says, "A good diet should consist of a variety of the carbohydrates, proteins, and a small amount of fat instead of what the Atkins regime suggests -an abundance of protein and fat with little to no carbohydrates." However, many do not care what a "good" diet is, many just care to lose weight, and the Atkins diet has been proven to do just that.
People have altered their carbohydrate intake and have lost anywhere from twenty, thirty, and even over a hundred pounds. "The science behind the diet is ketosis which means that you are burning your fat stores and using them as a source of fuel. When the body is releasing ketones, it is consuming your own fat" (Atkins, 61). On the Atkins Diet, the person is in a fat-dissolving state of ketosis. Though a person is in this fat-dissolving state, "the body is being starved of essential nutrients that are needed from carbohydrates." (Gnage)
Getting the Recommended Daily Allowance of the nutrients the body needs on these plans is a difficult task because low carbohydrate diets eliminate so many foods and food groups (Gnage). Meat and cheese do not provide optimal nutrition. Carbohydrates are necessary. Conveniently, Atkins came up with his own line of expensive nutritional supplements to add to his fortune. Many are led to believe that taking supplements each day equals the same optimal nutrition we get from food. Wrong. Even "supplemented" low carbohydrate diets fall short on the latest nutrition phenomenon - phytochemicals. "Phytonutrients - found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains - help to prevent from cancer and other chronic illnesses." (Williams, 107) Only nature can provide the nutrients that are essential, it is not possible to stuff it all into a daily pill. Vitamins and minerals can only provide so much to help us live, but food, protein and carbohydrates, provide us with that we need to live healthily.
Carbohydrates are vital for our health, why are they the enemy? Dr. Atkins claims that carbohydrates should be avoided because they contain insulin, "the hormones that make you fat" (Atkins, 52). In Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, Dr. Atkins says, "Carbohydrates are triggering the release of large quantities of the hormone, but the body is incapable of using it efficiently. The body responds by putting out yet more insulin. . .because insulin is not effective in converting glucose into energy, it transfers more and more into stored fat."
Dr. Atkins has made insulin the enemy due to the fact that it helps the body store fat. Because of this fat storing function, the Atkins diet have condemned insulin to eternal damnation. Sadly, it's a very undeserved reputation based on false and twisted truths. One false theory is that only carbohydrates in the diet will stimulate insulin production. The truth is that all ingested foods stimulate insulin production (Williams, 374). The second false theory is that insulin stores fat only when high carbohydrate foods are eaten. The bottom line with regard to the body's biochemistry is that fat will only be stored if too much food, from any source, is eaten (Williams, 374).
What are taking place of the carbohydrates? An over consumption of fat and protein replaces carbohydrates. The Atkins diet places no limit on the amount of saturated-fat-laden products one can have each day. Large portions of foods like butter, red meat and bacon are allowed and encouraged. These foods, especially in generous amounts, provide negative effects to the body.
The Atkins plan contradicts numerous studies which have demonstrated the significant correlation between diets high in saturated fat and increased heart disease risk. Too much fat in the diet gives clogs the arteries which could lead to coronary heart disease. "Too much protein in the diet is a strain on the kidney because the body is not built to digest a generous amount of protein." (Michael) Sharon Michael, a nutrition and physiology instructor at Tacoma community college says, "the brain is suffering because it functions strictly on carbohydrates." Studies have shown that the Atkins diet can put people in a bad mood. Serotonin, a hormone derived from carbohydrates, controls our emotions. A shortage of carbohydrates leads to mood swings (BBC NEWS).
The drawbacks of the Atkins Diet are an inadequate amount of nutrition and many risks that could lead to chronic illnesses. Dave Phillips, an instructor for personal training certification, says, "There have not been many any long-term studies on the diet which means there could be more negatives to the diet." Could one come to the conclusion that that this diet is successful? Many would agree that it is an attainable way to lose weight. However, the goal should not only be to lose weight, but to be healthy and well. This diet puts people at risk for unwanted diseases, gives mood swings, and is a burden to the body. The Atkins Diet Revolution may be beneficial for weight loss, but it also a revolution to a state of unhealthiness and unknown factors.
Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution. New York: AVON BOOKS, INC., 1999.
BBC NEWS. Atkins Can Put You in a Bad Mood. 1 March, 2004.
Hoeger, Warner W. K., Fitness and Wellness. California: Thompson Learning , Inc., 2002.
Gnage, Kyle. Personal Interview. 10 April 2004.
Michael, Sharon. Interview by Patrick Moody. 23 Qctober, 2003.
Phillips, Dave. Personal Interview. 1 May 2004.
Williams, Sue Rodwell. Basic Nutrition and Diet Therapy. Missouri: Mosby, Inc., 2001