Atkins Diet Controversy

One of the most well-known low-carbohydrate diets received disapproval from the American College of Preventive Medicine. Despite stories and research projects showing that Atkin's high-meat, high-fat program induces significant weight loss, the medical community cites concerns over the controversial diet plan.

The Atkins diet plan has, in fact, received positive media reviews in the past after research concluded that very low-carbohydrate diets result in weight loss and improved blood lipid profiles. The researchers in that study also concluded that participants of the program reported bad breath, headaches and - in some cases - hair loss.

Atkins recommends keeping dietary carbohydrate intake to about 20 grams per day. The National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) Food and Nutrition Board recommends no less than 120 grams of carbohydrate per day for optimal health and brain function.

The American College of Preventive Medicine was not convinced from Atkin's short-term studies. In a position paper, the physicians' group called the diet program potentially dangerous and ultimately ineffective.

"Of course, the Atkins Diet can produce weight loss in the short term, and it can lower cholesterol," said Dr. David L. Katz, a member of the ACPM Board of Regents and Director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale University School of Medicine. "It achieves its results by restricting calories, as do all fad diets. People can attain rapid weight loss and lower cholesterol by eliminating any entire food category from their diets, but that doesn't mean it's good for them. Serious illness such as AIDS and cancer tend to cause weight and cholesterol to plummet, but clearly these are not desirable for health."

The debate over low-carbohydrate programs will continue for years. Researchers have embraced the idea that high sugar and highly-refined carbohydrate diets are contributing to the cause of obesity and diabetes.  The NAS Food and Nutrition Board relaxed previous recommendations of high carbohydrate intake to a more moderate range of 45-65% of total calories. Still, nutrition research does not support very low-carbohydrate diets and no major medical or nutrition organization endorses the approach for weight loss.

About two-thirds of Americans are currently overweight and nearly one-third of the population is obese. According to the American Obesity Association, obesity causes at least 300,000 excess U.S. deaths and annual healthcare costs of approximately $100 billion.