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Low carb diets

Samji, ShairozStudent BMJ; London Vol. 12,  (Dec 2004). DOI:10.1136/sbmj.0412450

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Pub Medic:Impress your mates at the pub with your startling repertoire of esoteric medical knowledge.

The Atkins approach is a low carbohydrate high fat high protein diet. Although named after Robert Atkins, its origins can be traced back to 1862. 1 Dr Atkins' New Diet Revolution --a 504 page long guide--works on one major assumption. If insulin is the main hormone that causes the body to turn any excess sugars into fat, when its production is minimised, Atkins suggested that all fat production will cease. By preventing the body from being supplied primarily by sugars, it could instead begin to burn fats and proteins leading to a process called ketosis. If Dr Atkins' theory is right, someone following the Atkins diet will use their own fat as a source of energy and therefore lose weight.

Plan B

Physiological changes including ketosis induced by a low carbohydrate diet are similar to those induced by starvation. During the Atkins diet, the body is thought to switch to lipid metabolism--the body's "backup plan." Ketones are formed and used by the central nervous system and other organs. This yields the initial rapid weight loss that is seen on the Atkins diet. However, long term reliance by the body on lipid metabolism may have detrimental consequences (table).

Atkins recommends that sugars must be controlled, initially to 20 g a day. 2 Devotees are free to enjoy almost as much protein and fat as they wish, however.

Dish of the day

The book gives advice about menu ideas and what foods should and should not be avoided. Interestingly, Atkins recommends that all participants should take nutritional substitutes, which may be purchased online on the Atkins website. Other recommendations made include ceasing prescription medication, 2 for example, the pill, antidepressants, insulin, and antiarrhythmics, as he suggests that...