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Consider the Atkins Diet: Is it Safe and Effective?

The Atkins diet is one of the most popular diets and has been around since the 1970s. While the original focus of the diet was weight loss, a recent book recommends the program to improve metabolism and control diabetes. The basis of the diet is combining non-starchy vegetables with sufficient servings of protein from meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs and cheese in addition to fat from butter, cream, mayonnaise, full-fat dressings, avocados, oils, nuts and seeds. All carbohydrates from grains, legumes, fruits, milk, yogurts and sugars are either limited or completely eliminated on the Atkins diet.

By all reports the Atkins diet is a safe way to lose weight. There have been a number of studies conducted on this low-carbohydrate way of eating for periods that range between a few weeks to over a year with all conclusions showing it was both effective and safe for dieters. One published study indicated a fat loss of 20.7 pounds in an overweight patient with an extremely high level of lips after following a diet similar to Atkins for 24 weeks. In another study overweight premenopausal women who followed the Atkins diet for 12 months safely lose 10.4 pounds on the average.

Many people have concerns about the Atkins diet because of its extremely high fat content that comes mostly from fatty cuts of meat, full-fat cheese, full-fat salad dressings, butter, cream and mayonnaise. In spite of the high amounts of saturated fat the diet promotes, there is no proof that consumption of saturated fat causes an increase in cardiovascular disease according to a meta-analysis that was published in the January 2010 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In fact, many followers of the Atkins diet see a drop in their triglyceride levels and an increase in their HDL cholesterol levels.

The first phase of the Atkins diet is very restrictive with a limit of no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates daily. Because most of us are used to consuming in excess of 200 grams of carbohydrates daily, this drastic reduction may cause some dieters to suffer undesirable side effect that may include lethargy, weakness, dizziness and headaches. Fortunately these side effects are not dangerous and will usually dissipate within a few days. When your intake of carbohydrates is less than 50 grams a day you need to drink at least 64 ounces of water every day and add ½ teaspoon of salt, 2 cups of broth or 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to your daily diet to replenish the electrolytes.

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