How Atkins Has Evolved

Atkins has continually evolved with the latest evidence on low-carb lifestyles, but its scientific foundation remains consistent.

What this page contains:

History of the Atkins Diet​ 

Discover the history of the Atkins Diet, pioneered by renowned cardiologist and medical professional, Dr. Robert C. Atkins. 

What influenced the Atkins Diet

During his residencies, Dr. Atkins became concerned by the increasingly common practice of prescribing potentially problematic or addictive medications, like amphetamine, to patients as appetite suppressants. Motivated to give people a safer and more sustainable approach to weight loss, he sought a science-backed dietary solution.

When was Atkins created?

After years of immersing himself in nutrition research and learning the positive impact of carbohydrate restriction on weight loss and satiety, Dr. Atkins published his seminal book in 1972. Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution detailed his low-carbohydrate diet findings. Since the book’s publication, over 100 scientific publications – including research from esteemed institutions such as Harvard Medical School and the American Heart Association – have demonstrated the benefits of what is now known as the Atkins Lifestyle.

Is Atkins Different Now?

Since the introduction of the original Atkins plan (now known as the Atkins 20® Plan) in 1972, Atkins has evolved with the science.

How Atkins has evolved over time

Among other examples, the concept of “net carbs” was introduced in 2002 when research demonstrated that fiber has a minimal impact on blood sugar. Then in 2006, a method for quantifying the glycemic response of low-carbohydrate foods was published in collaboration with Atkins’ scientists.

With these discoveries came additional recommendations for patients to use the glycemic impact of carbohydrates to move through phases of the Atkins 20® Plan. This new diet allowed for more flexibility and improved adherence by providing a structured, step-wise approach to gradually liberalizing carbohydrate food choices based on glycemic impact.

In 2015, the Atkins 40® Plan was introduced as more research showed that carbohydrate restriction to ~40 net carbs per day was also an effective tool for improving health.Later, the Atkins 100® Plan was introduced to reflect the evidence on the benefits of moderate carbohydrate restriction.

The program has also worked to mirror the latest science by increasing its emphasis on vegetable intake and unsaturated fats and providing more flexibility and personalization. Regardless of the plan or diet phase, today’s Atkins Lifestyle encourages the consumption of non-starchy Foundation Vegetables, such as cucumbers and broccoli, as well as a variety of foods providing mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids to support total wellness goals.

These important changes align with the evolving perspectives from trusted healthcare professionals and organizations on low-carbohydrate diet benefits. For example, the American Diabetes Association’s Standard of Medical Care now includes a low-carbohydrate diet as a well-established dietary approach for effective blood sugar management in Type 2 Diabetes.

How the Atkins Diet Works

Understand Atkins’ flexible and adaptable science-based approach to low-carbohydrate living that makes it a more sustainable and personalized choice for individuals.

Driven by science

So, how does a low-carb approach like Atkins work? When consuming carbohydrates that raise blood sugar, the body releases insulin into the bloodstream, which encourages fat storage. On the other hand, limiting carbohydrates allows your body to use fat as its main energy source, resulting in the breakdown of fat stored in the body and a fundamental shift in metabolism. The increased use of fat for fuel not only promotes weight loss, but also has a positive influence on various other metabolic processes, including cholesterol metabolism, glycemic control, appetite regulation, and inflammation.

The Atkins Lifestyle is a science-backed eating program based on years of independent, peer-reviewed research around these mechanisms, and developed to provide options that fit within an individual’s needs.

Atkins vs. Keto: what’s the difference

While both the Atkins and Keto diets restrict carbohydrates, the Keto Diet includes rigid restrictions with extremely high intakes of fat (75% to 90% of daily calories) and very low intakes of carbohydrates (less than 5%). The Atkins approaches, meanwhile, give patients structured and phased approaches for weight loss and maintenance – providing the benefits of low-carbohydrate living without the rigidity.

When it comes to diets, the science shows there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The Atkins Lifestyle allows for adaptation, flexibility, and choice, which is crucial to support patients in making gradual, sustainable lifestyle changes over time.

Atkins for Modern Lifestyles

The Atkins Lifestyle is a simple and versatile approach to weight loss and maintenance that is driven by science and designed for real life. Through customizable meal plans, healthcare professionals can work with each individual patient to create a personalized diet that works for their goals, preferences, culinary heritage, physical activity levels, and overall nutrition needs.

Whether your patient follows a vegetarian, diabetic, Mediterranean or DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, the Atkins Lifestyle can set them up for success. To read more about how the Atkins Lifestyle could allow your patients to live a low-carb lifestyle that’s flexible and sustainable, explore the Atkins website for Healthcare Professionals.