Many dieters getting excited about weight loss method
SIKESTON -- Like the majority of dieters out there, Lisa Angle has tried every weight-loss plan imaginable. So when she saw the quick weight-loss results of a co-worker, she was dying to know her secret.
Her co-worker's answer: the infamous Atkins diet, a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet which was created by the late Dr. Robert C. Atkins in 1972.
Since February, Angle, 37, has lost 21 pounds using the Atkins diet and she would like to lose at least 15 more, she said.
"The first 10 days are the hardest of the diet because you cannot have any carbohydrates at all," Angle said. "After that, you can increase your intake of carbs when you reach certain levels of the diet."
She continued: "That first week kind of cleaned me out. It changed my system, and when I ate, I felt full faster."
Angle's meals consisted of meat, eggs, cheese and salads, she said. She couldn't have any bread, potatoes or pasta. Beef jerky and pork rinds are another food alternative for Angle.
"I'm a meat-eater. I can eat a piece of ham or turkey by itself," Angle said, adding that the diet isn't for everyone, especially those who don't like meat.
Although the diet has garnered a lot of controversy over the past 20 years, recent studies have shown that in short-term, the diet may not be as harmful as experts once thought.
Research in a May issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that people on Atkins diet lose twice as much weight over six months as those on the standard low-fat diet recommended by most major health organizations. However, another study found that the Atkins dieters regain much of the weight by the end of one year.
And studies show that meat-heavy, high-protein eating patterns are, over the long run, linked to osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer and renal disease, and pose particular dangers for people with diabetes, according to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
"It's like tea and coffee," Angle theorized about the diet. "One minute experts are saying it's good for you, and the next they're saying it's not. You don't know what to believe."
While experts aren't doubting the Atkins diet effect on weight loss, registered dietitian Caren Brown said her concern is that experts don't really know about the long-term effects.
"There have not been a lot of long-term studies. The New England Medical Journal has done 107 different studies on the high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diets from 1966-2003. None of the studies were done longer than three months and no one was over age 53," pointed out Brown, who is a clinical dietitian at Missouri Delta Medical Center.
Part of the reason people are getting excited about low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diets like the Atkins is that they do lose weight fast, Brown noted.
"One of the reasons you lose weight so quickly is that your body normally burns carbohydrates for energy. And if you're not taking carbs in it goes to both protein and fat, putting you into ketosis, which causes fullness and a large amount of water weight loss," Brown said.
Being in ketosis means your body has burned a large amount of fat in response to the fact that it didn't have the carbs for energy, Brown said.
"Under everyday conditions, the carbohydrates you eat are converted to glucose, which is the body's primary source of energy," Brown explained. "Whenever your intake of carbohydrates is limited to a certain range, for a long enough period of time, you'll reach a point where your body draws on its alternate energy system -- protein and fat."
Angle admitted she isn't as strict with her diet as she was when she first began, but she continues to be on it.
"I'm still losing and looking at my carb intake," Angle said. "I splurge every now and then and I drink lots of water. If I desire a certain food, I'll eat it."
Angle said she feels fine and her iron is up. She doesn't have high blood pressure or cholesterol, either, she said. Although cholesterol may not rise while on the Atkins diet, health experts are seeing a link with two other risks associated with heart disease such as plaques in vessels and higher homosystine levels, Brown said. High protein diets also decrease the volume of blood flow, and that it is not a good thing, she added.
"Actually if you are wanting long-term endurance, low-carb diets are not good for you at all because carbohydrates give you energy and by limiting them it actually cuts back on your ability to exercise," Brown said.
By limiting other food groups, people are limiting themselves of other nutrients such as vitamin E and vitamin A, which are known for preventing cancers, Brown said.
The University of Colorado started a National Weight Control Registry to try and determine which weight loss plan works best. People who have lost 30 pounds or more and have maintained it for a year or longer are able to register, Brown said.
"Of the 3,000 people registered, 25 people used the low-carb diet, cutting carbs back below 24 percent. The rest of the people were those who used the regular diet and exercise," Brown said, adding she prefers eating good, nutritional food combined with regular exercise for the best weight loss results.
Definitely those with underlying health problems need to be very careful about the Atkins diet, Brown cautioned to the diet users.
"Yes, in short term, it works," Brown said, "but how healthy it is in the long run remains in question."