For the past 20 years, anything other than a low-fat diet--which usually includes a lot of carbohydrates--has been considered unscientific and dangerous. So it is quite ironic that as researchers are finally studying the benefits of the Atkins Nutritional Approach (ANA), which controls carbohydrates, the scientific underpinnings for the low-fat approach are being challenged.
Research on controlled-carbohydrate programs demonstrates that subjects find them easy to follow and effective in helping them lose weight. In addition, controlling carbohydrates lowers glucose and insulin levels in the blood--risk factors associated with heart disease, diabetes and other metabolic syndromes.
Here are the facts regarding the three phases of my program. During induction, the amount of carbohydrates allowed is limited to 20 grams a day--the equivalent of three cups of broccoli, spinach or salad greens. Mine is not and has never been a no-carb diet. During the next phase of the program, ongoing weight loss, you add five grams of carbs a week until you find what we call your CCLL, or critical carbohydrate level for losing, which is usually between 40 to 60 grams a day. Once you've achieved your desired weight, you continue to add healthy carbs, seeking a level that does not cause you to regain weight.
The ANA recommends that the carbs you add consist of more green vegetables, followed by seeds and nuts, fruit that won't spike your insulin levels (such as berries, cherries and green apples), whole grains and even some starchy vegetables. How many carbs you can include in your daily diet will depend on your age, gender, level of activity and genetics. Followed properly, the Atkins program www.atkinscenter.com can last a lifetime, without your having to count calories or feel hungry all the time.
Low-fat diets require strict calorie counting, do not allow for individual metabolisms and often require putting up with hunger due to a low-calorie and minimal-fat intake.
As far as safety is concerned, look to the science for your answer, not high-profile critics. My program preserves lean body mass, sparing muscle loss. In my experience, it is not harmful to bones or kidneys.
For over 30 years, I've been a lone voice in the wilderness. I am grateful that the National Institutes of Health is now examining controlled-carbohydrate and low-fat nutrition. These studies may end up showing that excessive carbohydrates are the true culprits, not fat. At what point am I allowed to say, "I told you so"?
Dr. Atkins is chairman of the Dr. Robert C. Atkins Foundation and author of Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution