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Wednesday, January 14, 2004
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Imperfections found with the Atkins diet

COMMENTARY
Eugene Chu

Many Americans, despite having an above average lifespan, also have severe health problems. One of the most serious is obesity. It isn’t surprising to see weight-loss books taking up a bookcase or even a whole aisle. One popular author of a modern diet book series is the late Dr. Robert Atkins. While the series is extremely popular, people are unaware of many flaws of the Atkins diet.

The intricate details of the Atkins diet can be found in Dr. Atkins’ books or at www.atkins.com. The beginning phase of the Atkins diet distribution is atypical. Consisting of high protein, low vegetable and minimal carbohydrate consumption, it is almost opposite of the food pyramid. While the unusual characteristics and popularity of the diet seem appealing, there are many characteristics that are often ignored.

Many ordinary dieters are convinced of the diet’s wonders, but many in the medical community, such as the American Heart Association, which supports a balanced diet with regular exercise, disagree with the Atkins diet. In addition, some studies that support the Atkins diet concept concentrate on short-term, rather than long-term weight loss. Some studies do show how participants lose weight after several months on the Atkins diet, but no studies show whether the participants maintain their lost weight over several years. In addition, there are other aspects of the diet that can be harmful.

According to TCU nutrition professor Christina Ranelle, there are significant side effects that could result from the Atkins diet. Ketone, an acidic substance that the body creates when it burns protein and fat, is overproduced when one eats too much protein and not enough carbohydrates. An excess amount changes the acid/base balance in the body, which can cause kidney disease, dizziness or nausea.

In addition, the Atkins diet contradicts normal human nutritional physiology. The human body does use protein for muscle repair and growth, but carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for the body. Many athletes consume significant amounts of carbohydrates for their workouts. By limiting carbohydrate intake, an athlete could hurt the ability for his or her body to perform rigorous work or even function normally.

The Atkins diet seems to be all the rage lately. Restaurants and grocery stores currently sell low-carbohydrate food and even low-carbohydrate beer. While the Atkins diet sounds appealing, a balanced diet with exercise is still preferable. People should consider the unpleasant side effects of a diet that is supposed to help, but may actually harm.

Eugene Chu is a senior political science major from Arlington.