Low carbohydrate regimens (was Atkins' diet testimonial)

James Ganong (JGanong@webtv.net)
Sun, 28 Nov 1999 03:01:34 -0800 (PST)

Hal Finney posted:

The Atkins diet is an extremely low carb diet which throws your body into a state called ketosis. Here is a comment by Curt Adams from April 1998:
This actually does work. When you eat virtually no carbohydrates your citric acid cycle fails and your body switches to an alternate fat oxidation system. Your body has to ship large quantities of fats in ketones around in the blood. Since your kidney lack the ability to retain these, they get lost in the urine.

This information is reasonably accurate.

The quote resumes:
The situation resembles that of somebody with advanced diabetes, although this kind of ketosis won't kill you directly.

The condition which damages diabetics is called ketoacidosis; it is not the same as ketosis. The underlying metabolic defects in a diabetic system lead to a metabolic derangment characterised by loss of pH control in the body; any system not plagued by these defects can adapt to ongoing ketosis.

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You can lose weight like crazy on this plan. You will also be physically weak, often nauseous, and you will smell like nail polish remover.

These problems tend to result from dehydration & electrolyte imbalance, which can also be induced by exercise; in both cases, rehydration & supplementation are fairly simple.

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If you go on the diet and then off it, you will gain back all you lost.

This is one of the most frequently levelled charges against this type of diet. It happens to be correct, but the same is true of *any* reducing diet. If you go back to a diet which made you gain weight without increased exercise or some such, yes, the weight will gradually return.

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If you stay on it, you'll subject your body indefinitely to a metabolic regime it's manifestly not adapted for.

Ketosis is only to be maintained until the goal weight is reached. At that point, carbohydrates are gradually reintroduced into the diet until ketosis ends & weight loss stops.

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Research on the long-term safety of ketotic diets is zilch, which I consider inexcusable given than Dr. Atkins has been pushing this diet for 25 years. Not even a rodent study! Dr. Atkins' diet may be a good thing, but he is a quack.

These statements are more or less accurate. Long term atudies are needed, but unlikely as this sort of regimen flies in the face of current dietary recommendations; it is so "obviously wrong" that no one is bothering to look.
As to atkins-as-quack, this holds a certain amount of truth as well. While I believe he got the low-carbohydrate thing mostly right (as well as the utility of antioxidants & other nutrients), he advocates some practices (ex: chelation therapy) that have been pretty thoroughly disproven; he also
preaches against virtually all modern pharmaceuticals & seems to think that everyone should go low-carb ( it does not work for everyone, individual chemistries vary).

For the record, I'm on a low carb regimen of my own design & have lost almost 40lbs in abot 5 months. I only spoke up because the common media view of low carb dieters is some guy in a trailer park eating fried chicken & sausages all the doodah day; I put a fair amount of thought into this before adopting it & I'm doing well on the system I came up with.

Still, the low-carb meme does have some almost cultish adherents; on the usenet group alt.diet.support.low.carb, people on different low carb diets argue strenuously over whose is the One True Way. I try to think of it as a chance to see memetic evolution in action.