When Dr. Atkins’ diet first became popular there were many critics who insisted that his claims were impossible, and his diet could not work.
His diet violated the laws of physics, many scientists and physicians said. People cannot eat a high calorie diet and lose weight because calories must go somewhere. Calories do not just disappear. When excess calories are consumed, they are converted into body fat. (“11 seaside chronicle summer 2014 by Seawolf – Issuu”) That was what conventional wisdom, and science, up to that point, portrayed as the truth.
That was why low-calorie diets were so widely recommended, by doctors, by the United States Government department of health. But it also was clear that they were not working. People on low calorie diets were not losing very much weight.
There was so much controversy over the concept of a high protein, low carb diet that several studies were done on the subjects. To the surprise of critics, Atkins’ claims proved to be true; high protein, low carb diets did work better than low calorie and low-fat diets.
One of these was a study that compared high protein low carb diets with traditional low-calorie low-fat diets. The study was conducted by Penelope Greene of the Harvard School of Public Health, and the results were presented at a meeting of the American Association for the Study of Obesity.
Green found that people eating an extra three hundred calories a day on an exceptionally low carb regimen lost more weight during a 12-week study than people who were on a typical low-fat diet.
The study was in fact funded by the Atkins Organization, but the Atkins Organization had not input into how the study was conducted and they did not get to design or supervise the study.
Participants were broken up into three groups, a low carb group and a low-fat group – and a low carb group that ate three hundred extra calories a day.
The number of calories, carbs, and protein consumed by each group was very carefully controlled.
Each group was given all their meals and snacks and told not to eat anything else. The meals were prepared by a local restaurant and were very carefully measured out and calorie counted.
The low-carb meals consisted of only five percent carbohydrates, fifteen percent protein and sixty-five percent fat.
The other people in the study received meals that were fifty-five percent carbohydrate, fifteen percent protein and thirty percent fat.
All three groups of people lost weight over the course of the 12-week study. The people who were on the lower calorie and lower carbohydrate diet lost an average of twenty-three pounds, while people who consumed the same number of calories on the lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet lost an average of seventeen pounds.
Here was the amazing thing that came out of this study. The volunteers who ate the extra three hundred calories a day of low-carb food lost an average of twenty pounds.
They were eating three hundred calories MORE per day than people who ate the low-fat diet – and they lost MORE weight!
This is proof positive that the high protein diet is more effective than a typical low-fat diet.
Another study followed four diverse groups of overweight women who followed four different diets: the Atkins Diet, the Zone Diet (which is also a low carbohydrate diet), the Lifestyles, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships and Nutrition (LEARN) diet which calls for low fat but higher carbohydrates, and the Ornish diet, which is high in carbohydrates but recommends extraordinarily little fat.
The women who followed the Atkins diet lost the most weight – 4.7 kilograms or 10.3 pounds. The women who followed the LEARN diet lost 2.5 kilograms or 5.5 pounds, the women who followed the Ornish diet lost 2.1 kilograms or 4.6 pounds and the women on the Zone diet lost 1.6 kilograms or 3.5 pounds. This was over a course of 10 weeks.
Out of all of them, the Atkins diet was the one highest in protein and lowest in carbohydrates.
Study after study seems to indicate that the high protein, extremely low carb diet is the most effective at helping people shed pounds quickly, without constant feelings of hunger and deprivation.
Dr. Atkins and other doctors and scientists have explained why eating protein is a better way to lose weight than eating carbohydrates.
It all has to do with how the human body breaks down food and converts it into energy and fat.
Carbohydrates are simple molecules. The body does not have to work extremely hard to break down carbohydrates. Therefore, the body does not have to burn up very much energy to break down carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are processed very efficiently by the body. And since it is so easy to break down carbohydrates into energy, the body does not burn very many calories in the process.
Also, the body processes refined carbohydrates so quickly that the fuel is used up almost immediately and that leaves people hungry shortly after they have eaten.
Fat and protein are a different story, according to Dr. Atkins and other science professionals who support his theories.
When the body is deprived of carbohydrates, it must find another source of energy to keep the body running.
The ideal situation would be if the body burned fat, not muscle, right? It is healthy for our body to have plenty of muscle. We need muscle; Our hearts are made of muscle. Also, each pound of muscle that we have burns more calories than each pound of fat – so the more muscular we are, the more calories we burn and therefore the more we are able to eat while still maintaining a healthy weight.
For each pound of muscle on our bodies, we burn an additional 30 to 50 calories per day. Ten extra pounds of muscle on our body would burn an additional 300 to 500 calories a day.
When people follow typical low-fat lowcalorie diets which do not have enough protein, their bodies desperately search for additional energy and start burning muscle, because they have no protein available to burn.
The body is forced to cannibalize itself and devour vital muscle. This is physically unhealthy and, over time, means that the dieter will have to eat less and less to maintain their body weight. It is a set up for weight gain.
However, when people go on high protein low carbohydrate diets like the Atkins or Scarsdale diet, here is what happens:
- The body needs energy. It is not getting it from refined carbohydrates, and it is barely taking in any carbohydrates at all.
- The body is taking in plenty of protein on this type of diet, so it is not forced to turn to the body’s own stores of muscles for energy.
- So, instead, the body starts raiding the fat stores and burning fat! This is exactly what we want – less fat, more muscle.
At this point the body has entered state that you may have heard about – the state of ketosis. What this means is that the body is breaking down fat for energy and generating molecules called ketones.
Ketones are carbon fragments produced by the liver as a by-product when fat is broken down for energy. The ketones serve as an energy source to replace glucose in the bloodstream which is produced by carbohydrates, and which would usually be used as energy.
When people first start high protein, low carbohydrate diets and enter a state of ketosis, they often report a mildly euphoric feeling. Ketosis also has a dampening effect on the appetite, causing people to eat less and feel fuller.
This is another benefit of a high protein diet; people who eat protein report feeling fuller more quickly than people eating carbohydrates, and since ketosis also has an appetite suppressing effect, it is much easier for people on high protein diets not to go off their diet and binge.
Is Ketosis dangerous, however? The problem that some people experience with high protein diets is not ketosis, it is ketoacidosis. People who have diabetes or are pre-diabetic – and may not know it – are especially vulnerable to this condition.
This condition happens when dangerously elevated levels of ketones build up in the blood. Symptoms include extreme thirst, frequent need to urinate, high blood sugar levels, feeling exhausted, nausea, shortness of breath, and a fruity odor on the breath.
People who are suffering from ketoacidosis need to be hospitalized. Ignoring the warning signs of ketoacidosis can cause people to lapse into a coma.
This is not a condition that is experienced by most people on high protein low carbohydrate diets – otherwise the Atkins book and other high protein low carb diet books would have been pulled from bookstore shelves long ago.
For people following a typical high protein diet, ketoacidosis is not going to be an issue. There have been a few recorded cases of ketoacidosis associated with the diet, but the people in those cases had an underlying health condition that they were unaware of before they started the diet.
Because of the potential risk associated with any change of diet, it is, of course, important to get permission from your doctor or physician before making such a change.
If you have any concerns about side effects, you should mention that to your family physician while discussing the risks and benefits of whatever type of diet that he or she recommends for you.
Best Wishes, Coyalita
See Tomorrow: “The Benefits of a Low Carb Diet”
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