Atkins Abounds

Lynn Klavetter

Lynn Klavetter

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the Atkins diet. Advertisements for foods, low in carbohydrates, have popped up everywhere from restaurants to grocery stores, but over the past year the Atkins diet has yielded results and raised concerns at the same time.

Senior Holly Irwin followed the Atkins diet for two months this past fall.

“You have to count every carb you eat. You don’t want to eat bread, pasta, fruit . . . anything with a lot of carbs or sugar, you need to stay away from on that diet,” Irwin said.

The nature of the Atkins diet differs from many other weight loss methods.

“It’s changing your body’s chemistry. Your body naturally burns carbohydrates for energy but on the Atkins diet, your body is burning fat,” Irwin said.

Burning stored fat for energy is not the body’s default setting.

“Carbohydrate is your body’s preferred source of fuel. If you are skipping out on carbohydrates, your body has to burn fat for fuel. It’s not a preferred source of energy,” registered dietitian Jane Osowski said.

Irwin found success with the diet.

“I think the diet works well for a person who has time to make food. You have to have time and motivation,” Irwin said. “You lose weight as long as you stay on it, and you can eat as much as you want until you are satisfied.”

Overall, the Atkins diet has proven effective for weight loss.

“One of the benefits is weight loss. For some people this is the most successful way they have lost weight,” Osowski said.

Because of the popularity of the Atkins diet, some restaurants are offering low-carb foods.

Subway offers “Atkins-Friendly Wraps” containing only 16 grams of carbohydrates and have received positive feedback from customers.

“The Atkins wraps are one of the most popular sandwiches. We sell a ton of them,” Subway worker and senior Kendra Deutsch said. “Most of our customers came back a second time.”

Although the diet seems to be a sure bet for losing weight, there are some concerns about its effects on the body.

“My concern with it is if people are skipping food groups, what nutrients are they missing?” Osowski said. “You don’t find those vitamins and minerals (from fruits) so much in the meat products.”

There is an ongoing debate over the possibility of the diet resulting in health risks in the long run.

“If you have a high protein diet, you are more likely to have a higher saturated fat intake which could lead to heart disease. I think there is concern about its long-term effects on the body,” Osowski said.

Irwin stresses that people on the diet need to take daily supplements to help their body get the essential nutrients it needs. Three of the challenges Irwin faced while on the diet this past fall was a limited availability of low-carb foods, a lack of time to prepare foods that fit the diet, and the high cost.

“It can get spendy, especially because of the cost of meat,” Irwin said.

For other reasons, Osowski prefers different methods over the Atkins diet.

“(I recommend) more exercise and watching what you eat all around. I don’t really recommend the Atkins diet. The problem is a lot of times if they don’t follow the diet, they will gain more weight than before,” Osowski said. “People don’t want to hear this recommendation. They want the quick fix.”

It’s clear all the research isn’t in for the Atkins diet, but Irwin is contemplating going back on it after she completes her schooling. Being careful to exercise, eat on a schedule, and drink lots of water, Irwin said she has not gained back the weight that she lost while on the diet.

For those following the Atkins diet, Irwin has some fun suggestions for snacks that are not cheating on the diet.

“A treat is a scoop of peanut butter or microwave a slice of cheese on a plate – when it hardens it makes a cheese cracker.”