Atkins Diet Health Concerns

Based on its radical departure for traditionally recommended diet standards, the Atkins Diet has prompted many questions about not only its effectiveness, but also its impact on health. The Atkins Diet promotes a significant reduction of carbohydrate consumption and an big increase in protein intake. The diet was eventually found to be ineffective for weight loss (anecdotal testimonials not withstanding) while leading some people to develop health issues.

Low-carb, high-protein diets took many years to finally expose

Unhealthful Food Choices

Many of the foods that qualify for high-protein diets are unhealthy when taken in quantity on a regular basis. These foods include red meat, butter, eggs and cream. In addition to these foods’ natural negatives (e.g., high cholesterol and saturated fat), the hormones in commercially raised beef and chicken, as well as the way many of these foods are prepared (fried, breaded, salted, sauteed) increase concerns about this diet’s healthiness. This doesn’t means carbs are all healthy, but it’s much easier to find healthy complex carbohydrates than the the proteins needed to fuel an Atkins diet.


As you decrease your carbohydrate intake, your body burns glycogen, which contains significant amounts of water. This process of leads to the release of the water in the glycogen, resulting in more urination. Therefore, water weight, not fat loss, is a significant part of Atkins Diet weight loss, and can lead to dehydration, especially in athletes. After an autopsy was performed on the body of Dr. Robert Atkins, he was found to be obese. Supporters of Atkins said this resulted from his body taking on excess fluids from the intravenous feeding he received while in a coma. Some believe that during his coma, his body took on the water it lost during his years of eating a high-protein diet.

Kidney Problems

Processing more protein and fewer carbohydrates can put a strain on kidneys and affect the their ability to absorb calcium, according to Kathryn Bailey, an occupational therapist at healthcare giant BUPA. A study by Harvard University also found high-protein diets can cause, ” . . . permanent loss of kidney function in anyone with reduced kidney function,” according to Dr. Amy Joy Lanou, director of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Increased Risk of Heart Disease

High-protein diets are filled with foods that increase the risk of heart disease, due to their high-levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. Additionally, diets should contain a variety of foods to protect against hear disease, according to experts, such as Belinda Linden, head of medical information at the British Heart Foundation, who said, “With minimal fruit and vegetables included in the diet, it holds serious implications for coronary heart disease and cancer.”

Lack of Nutrients

Replacing carbohydrates with protein results in the loss of vitamins and minerals found in carbohydrates. In addition, the process of ketosis (a rise in blood acid levels when more fat is burned due to a lack of carbohydrates), can lead a loss of minerals, such as calcium, in bones. This can lead to bones becoming brittle and porous.

Poor, Long-Term Weight-Loss Results

When all the hype was said and done, no scientific studies were able to show that staying on an Atkins Diet resulted in more weight loss than a standard diet. Given many consumer’s tendencies to consider any low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet an “Atkins-like” diet, the consequences were dangerous. Long-term consumption of high amounts of protein and low amounts of carbohydrates, without the Atkins reliance on exercise, fish oil consumption and other guidelines will likely lead to poor health.

Additional Resources

Bupa: Is the Atkins Diet Safe?

Dr. Michael Greger: The Skinny on Atkins

 Mayo Clinic: Atkins Diet: What’s Behind the Claims?

Mayo Clinic: Low-Carb Diets