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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Atkins Diet: An Unresolved Debate

  • Author(s): Christman, Grant
  • et al.

Obesity is a public health problem reaching epidemic proportions in the United States (1). Many Americans are turning to popular diets, including the well-known Atkins diet. The Atkins diet allows the dieter to consume as much protein and fat as desired, while severely limiting carbohydrate consumption. Studies show that the Atkins diet does promote weight loss, but there is conflict regarding the degree and nature of such weight loss; much of the existing literature agrees that water loss and straight caloric decrease, rather than the composition of the diet, account for all of the observed weight loss (15). A high protein diet does seem to have an advantage in suppressing appetite. Studies have also identified numerous harmful side effects associated with the diet, but there is still considerable debate regarding the effects on cholesterol levels. Sadly, the literature shows a striking lack of long-term, large sample studies on the efficacy of the diet, though certain studies currently underway show some promise.

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