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The four Atkins Nutritional Principles – Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, Good Health, and Disease Prevention – represent the core evidence-based outcomes that guide today’s Atkins Nutritional Approach.
The Atkins Diet is designed for safe and effective weight loss. Through the Atkins Nutritional Approach, carbohydrates are sufficiently restricted to shift the body into lipolysis and ketosis, preferentially oxidizing stored fat for energy, breaking down adipose tissue, and facilitating weight loss. This approach may be especially effective for patients who have struggled to lose weight by other means, those reluctant to count calories or restrict fat, or those with lifestyle-related comorbidities. For example:
- Research demonstrates the efficacy of low-carbohydrate diets (LCDs), like the Atkins Nutritional Approach, over low-fat diets (LFDs) and other conventional, calorie-restricted dietary interventions. This advantage may be attributed to LCDs’ dual ability to break down fat for fuel and inhibit fat storage (1-4).
- Additional evidence shows LCDs’ ability to promote greater weight loss with smaller calorie deficits compared to LFDs, which helps promote improved dietary compliance (5-6).
- Multiple studies have shown LCDs result in greater percentages of fat loss and better retention of lean body mass compared to other dietary interventions. A comprehensive analysis of 87 studies concluded that LCDs have a favorable effect on both body mass and body composition (7), with some evidence suggesting that abdominal fat may be particularly targeted (8).
True success with any weight loss program is the ability to keep the weight off and achieve a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. That’s why the Atkins Nutritional Approach provides personalized support and structure for life by helping individuals establish their unique Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE) – the carbohydrate intake found to promote weight maintenance and protect against weight regain. Studies show this continued carbohydrate restriction, combined with higher protein intake, promotes acute weight-loss and long-term weight maintenance.
- Evidence suggests that higher protein, lower carbohydrate diets (25% and 45% of total daily calorie intake, respectively), can minimize adaptive thermogenesis after weight loss, thereby avoiding the concurrent decrease in metabolic rate that often stymies long-term weight loss maintenance (9).
- Studies have also shown LCDs produce significantly greater resting and total energy expenditure during periods of weight loss maintenance compared to isocaloric LFDs (10-11).
- Sustained caloric restriction is often easier on an LCD, due to increased feelings of satiety and decreased cravings associated with choosing foods that are lower in carbohydrate, higher in fat, and contain adequate protein (12-14).
The Atkins Nutritional Approach provides a nutritionally complete diet and is more likely to ensure adequate nutrient intakes and good health compared to a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet. Studies have demonstrated the ability to include a variety of nutrient-dense foods and meet micronutrient needs while following an LCD meal plan (15-16). For example:
- Despite limiting carbohydrate-containing foods, LCDs have been found to increase mean daily fiber intake compared to baseline fiber consumption (17) and encourage intake of phytonutrient-rich plant foods (18-19). These dietary improvements are likely due to LCDs’ emphasis on high-fiber/low-glycemic vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
- LCDs help stabilize metabolism during weight loss, and thus, require less drastic calorie reductions to achieve and maintain weight loss compared to standard low-fat/calorie-restricted diets (5, 6, 11, 20) thereby allowing more opportunities to meet micronutrient needs through dietary choices.
Patients who are at high risk for, or diagnosed with certain chronic diseases, can see improvement in clinical parameters by following an individualized Atkins Diet plan. Research increasingly shows carbohydrate restriction results in global improvements in biomarkers related to metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
- Multiple studies have demonstrated that carbohydrate restriction helps lower hemoglobin A1c and fasting glucose levels, reduce serum insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce or obviate medication requirements in patients with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance (21-24).
- Increasing evidence suggests LCDs promote cardiovascular health by reducing plasma triglycerides, increasing HDL cholesterol, and improving LDL cholesterol particle-size patterns (25-27).
- Several dozen studies have examined the efficacy of LCDs compared to LFDs; findings show LCDs do as well or better than LFDs in improving metabolic syndrome biomarkers. These studies support the use of the Atkins Diet as a powerful clinical tool in the long-term management of obesity-related chronic diseases (1, 5, 28-29).
Click here to learn more about the current body of evidence supporting the efficacy of LCDs and the Atkins Nutritional Approach.
- Brehm BJ, Seeley RJ, Daniels SR, D’Alessio DA. A randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Apr;88(4):1617-23
- Yancy WS Jr, Olsen MK, Guyton JR, Bakst RP, Westman EC. A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet to treat obesity and hyperlipidemia: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2004 May 18;140(10):769-77
- Foster GD, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, McGuckin BG, Brill C, Mohammed BS, Szapary PO, Rader DJ, Edman JS, Klein S. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003 May 22;348(21):2082-90
- Nordmann AJ, Nordmann A, Briel M, Keller U, Yancy WS Jr, Brehm BJ, Bucher HC. Effects of low-carbohydrate vs low-fat diets on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Feb 13;166(3):285-93
- Samaha FF, Iqbal N, Seshadri P, Chicano KL, Daily DA, McGrory J, Williams T, Williams M, Gracely EJ, Stern L. A low-carbohydrate as compared with a low-fat diet in severe obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003 May 22;348(21):2074-81
- Shiue, H, Sather C, Layman D. Reduced Carbohydrate/Protein Ratio Enhances Metabolic Changes Associated With Weight Loss Diet. FASEB Journal, 2001;15(4): 301
- Krieger JW, Sitren HS, Daniels MJ, Langkamp-Henken B. Effects of variation in protein and carbohydrate intake on body mass and composition during energy restriction: a meta-regression. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 83, Issue 2, February 2006, Pages 260–274, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/83.2.260
- Volek J, Sharman M, Gómez A, Judelson D, Rubin M, Watson G, Sokmen B, Silvestre R, French D, Kraemer W. Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004 Nov 8;1(1):13
- Drummen M, Tischmann L, Gatta-Cherifi B, Fogelholm M, Raben A, Adam TC, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. High Compared with Moderate Protein Intake Reduces Adaptive Thermogenesis and Induces a Negative Energy Balance during Long-term Weight-Loss Maintenance in Participants with Prediabetes in the Post Obese State: A PREVIEW Study. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 150, Issue 3, March 2020, Pages 458–463, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxz281
- Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, Wong WW, Hachey DL, Garcia-Lago E, Ludwig DS: Effects of dietary composition on energy expenditure during weight-loss maintenance. JAMA 2012, 307(24):2627-2634
- Ebbeling Cara B, Feldman Henry A, Klein Gloria L, Wong Julia M W, Bielak Lisa, Steltz Sarah K et al. Effects of a low carbohydrate diet on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance: randomized trial BMJ 2018; 363 :k4583
- Latner JD, Schwartz M. The effects of a high-carbohydrate, high-protein or balanced lunch upon later food intake and hunger ratings. Appetite. 1999 Aug;33(1):119-28
- Ball SD, Keller KR, Moyer-Mileur LJ, et al. Prolongation of Satiety After Low Versus Moderately High Glycemic Index Meals in Obese Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2003, 111:3;488-494
- Hoertel HA, Will MJ, Leidy HJ. A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese “breakfast skipping”, late-adolescent girls. Nutr J. 2014, 3:80 https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-80
- Zinn C, Rush A, Johnson Reassessing the nutrient intake of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet: a hypothetical case study design. BMJ 2018;8:e018846. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018846
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- Syed-Abdul MM, Hu Q, Jacome-Sosa M, Padilla J, Manrique-Acevedo C, Heimowitz C,. Parks EJ. Effect of carbohydrate restriction-induced weight loss on aortic pulse wave velocity in overweight men and women. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2018 Dec;43(12):1247-1256. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2018-0113.
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- Johnston CS, Day CS, Swan PD. Postprandial Thermogenesis is Increased 100% on a High-Protein, Low-Fat Diet Versus a High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet in Healthy, Young Women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2002, 21(1): 55-61
- Boden G, Sargrad K, Homko C, Mozzoli M, Stein TP. Effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on appetite, blood glucose levels, and insulin resistance in obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Ann Intern Med 2005, 142(6):403-411
- Dashti HM, Al-Zaid NS, Mathew TC, Al-Mousawi M, Talib H, Asfar SK, Behbahani AI. Long term effects of ketogenic diet in obese subjects with high cholesterol level. Mol Cell Biochem 2006, 286(1-2):1-9
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