Posted on August 5, 2010 - 2 Comments
The Atkins Diet has received widespread acceptance among consumers in the last couple of years, even though it was developed decades ago. Since the last broad approach to weight loss (namely the low fat diet) proved to be ineffective, people in general re-discovered the Atkins Diet (based on low carbohydrate intake,) and word of mouth spread its’ effectiveness.
And we must admit, in spite of rumors of kidney failure in some adhering too strictly to the diet, that he seemed to be on to something. (Dr. Atkins himself died in an accident). We know now that a low fat diet causes the body to believe that there is insufficient fat available in the local diet, and thus it must conserve fat. When we eat good quality fats, the body is comfortable enough to burn stored body fat as a fuel.
We also now know that the body perceives all refined (or “simple”) carbohydrates as being the same as sugar: that is, the insulin spikes and many of the calories are stored as fat. The average North American adult already consumes approximately 150 lbs of sugar per year. When we appreciate that to your body all pasta, bread, fruit juice, flour products, white potatoes and white rice are no different than sugar, we can begin to see why obesity and diabetes are becoming epidemic.
So, thank you Dr. Atkins for making us aware of a critical piece of the puzzle of why the modern diet is killing and disabling us in huge numbers. But, there are a few things that need to be qualified about the Atkins Diet, and one piece of good news that most Atkins dieters seem to be unaware of.
(1) It is important to distinguish between “good” fat and “bad” fat, something lacking in the current approach to this diet. Good fats support good health and longevity, and include coconut oil, fish, flax seed oil, olive oil, supplemental oils such as Udo’s Oil, and Essential Balance, and fish oil capsules. Even a moderate amount of saturated fats, such as butter, eggs and lean animal proteins, can be beneficial.
Excessive animal fats, as consumed by many of those on the Atkins diet, will contribute to heart disease and inflammatory conditions. Other bad fats include hydrogenated oils (especially margarine,) all vegetable oils (except coconut) when they are heated to high temperatures, especially when repeatedly heated as when making chips and French fries. These bad fats actually steal good fatty acids from the body, and are about equal to smoking for the amount of free radical damage they cause to the cells.
(2) Most conventional low carb products currently on the market are sweetened artificially. Most with sucralose, believed to be one of the safest artificial sweeteners available. (Look up toxicity of sucralose on the internet to see this debated.) All artificial sweeteners at the very least will often cause a laxative effect if consumed three or more times in a day. A natural zero-carb sweetener that individuals can use is Stevia, which will not cause this side effect, nor any other.
(3) We desire, and eventually crave, carbohydrates because they raise levels of serotonin in the brain. This neurotransmitter has a calming effect on the nervous system. Those who strictly adhere to the Atkins program for extended periods may start to find increased levels of anxiety and/or depression as a result. If one notices signs of this, and still chooses not to eat even some complex carbs, there are a couple of supplements that can help to naturally raise serotonin levels. These include St. John’s Wort, 5HTP, vitamin B-3, and melatonin.
Now for the good news. After vigorous physical exertion (i.e. breaking a sweat,) there is a block of time (45 to 60 minutes) when carbohydrates are stored as glycogen deposits in the liver and muscles. This is energy stored for the next day’s activities. During this block one also requires protein or we burn muscle instead of fat. So, believe it or not, whatever your secret carb desire is, if you can channel it into that time after exercise it will not be fattening. Now there is an additional motivation to exercise, which will further facilitate healthy weight loss.
That being said, a candy bar will steal nutrients, whereas potatoes, rice and whole grain pastas will still provide the body with some nutrients, and so would be a better choice.