NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is Dr. Atkin's Diet Dangerous?

September 27, 2002

Now days, weight loss is no laughing matter. It has become a feeding frenzy of shysters offering today's latest and greatest weight loss gimmicks ranging from pills, elixirs and topical creams. But many Americans say the only true key to weight loss is the Atkins Diet. Dr. Atkins began preaching his high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate mantra in the early 1970s, but the diet has yet to be tested for long-term impacts on overall health.

  • The National Institutes of Health says that one-in-four Americans is obese and suffers serious health risks associated with being over-weight.
  • Americans are eating an average of 400 calories more than they did decades ago -- at that rate an average person can expect to gain 41.7 pounds a year.

According to the Atkins Foundation a long-term study has not been conducted because it would cost millions and would be cost-prohibitive. However, short-term research conducted by the foundation shows consistent improvements in health despite the high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol found in the key foods promoted by the diet.

Other health experts say that the Atkins diet has deleterious health consequences. For example, a study by Chia-Ying Wang of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas shows that six weeks of a low carbohydrate, high-protein diet greatly increases the risk of developing kidney stones.

The consensus among most food scientists is that animal fats and cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease, strokes and some cancers. Evidence is growing in support of diets that are packed with fruits and vegetables and moderate in protein because they appear to prevent diseases like high blood pressure, prostate cancer and diabetes.

Source: Jane E. Brody, "High-Fat Diet: Count Calories and Think Twice," New York Times, September 10, 2002.


Browse more articles on Health Issues