NEW YORK, Feb 18
(Reuters Health) -- The extremely carbohydrate-restricted Atkins
diet is a safe, effective way to lose weight, according to
studies presented at the Southern Society of General Internal
Medicine in New Orleans.
A study of the
diet conducted at the Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina
showed that on average, mildly obese people lost about 21 pounds
in just four months on the diet.They had positive changes in heart
risk factors such as reduced cholesterol and increased HDL or
"good cholesterol." These results are supported by a
second study from researchers at the Atkins Center for
Complementary Medicine in New York.
study included 41 mildly obese, healthy people who attended an
outpatient clinic. The study participants followed a program
that reduced carbohydrate intake to less than 20 grams per day,
and included vitamin supplements, fish oil supplements and 20
minutes of exercise at least three times per week.
months on the diet, the participants lost an average of 21.3
pounds, and showed a 6.1% drop in cholesterol,and almost a 40%
drop in the level of triglycerides in their blood. In addition,
their HDL levels increased by about 7%. In a press release, the
researchers also say that their study did not find any of the
safety concerns voiced by the American Dietetic Association,
such as potentially dangerous effects on liver and kidney
short months on the Atkins
Diet, we were able to confirm scientifically what Dr. Atkins
states he has seen in his practice over the past decades. The
diet lowers cholesterol and triglycerides and raises HDL...
which may represent an entirely new approach to the control and
prevention of heart disease,"said lead researcher Dr. Eric
C. Westman, assistant professor of medicine at North Carolina's
The study is
continuing in order to assess the long-term effects of the diet.
results of the second study, Colette Heimowitz, director of
nutrition at the Atkins Center in New York, said that it was
based on 319 overweight or obese patients treated at the Center
for at least a year. Investigators collected information on
weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, kidney and liver function
and other parameters during the study.
found is what we already knew from anecdotal data,"
Heimowitz told Reuters Health in an interview after the meeting
on Friday. "There were some pretty impressive benefits in
body composition. HDL levels went up, LDL levels went down and
blood pressure decreased," she reported. Where HDL is the
good cholesterol for its association with reduced heart risk,
LDL has earned the name of being the "bad" cholesterol
because high levels are associated with heart disease.
have data for the scientific community" on the healthful
benefits of the Atkins diet, Heimowitz asserted.
The Atkins diet
severely restricts carbohydrate intake to induce a state of
ketosis, or metabolic starvation. Dieters are encouraged to
measure urinary keton excretion as an indication of how
effective the diet is in inducing fat breakdown. "Ketosis
is a benign byproduct of fat burning," Heimowitz asserted.
"With an adequate protein and fat intake, there is no loss
of muscle mass...There is no change in (blood) pH if the diet is
properly done," she said.
diet is not for everyone, Heimowitz warned. "It's for those
who need a correction in their sugar and carbohydrate
metabolism...We encourage (vitamin) supplementation and an
intake of 'good' fats, such as fish oil," Heimowitz