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The Atkins diet means cutting out carbs – but you didn’t need me to tell you that. Dr Robert Atkins’ diet plan is still the source of unending wellness controversy even 10 years after his death, as many still hold true the adage: carbs are the root of all rotundity, fighting the war against wellbeing. So does this mean that the Atkins diet truly works, or have we been holding onto a diet fad that needs to fade?
The NHS advice for healthy eating in the UK is that starchy foods, such as potatoes, cereals, pasta, rice and bread, should make up roughly one third of the food you eat. Paul Goldsmith, a 39-year-old teacher who has tried Atkins, said, ‘I try diets because I like to be told rules. Atkins was good because it allowed me to eat lots of nice foods. But it didn’t work in the long term. I’d end up ‘committing carbicide’ and eat lots of bagels or bread. For a man to say that bread goes straight to my hips, it’s probably an odd thing to say, but it’s true…I know I need to find something that I can do for the rest of my life.’
Nutritionist and dietician Nicole Berberian noted, ‘People tend to have a rapid response when it comes to weight loss, but Atkins is also known to have one of the greatest rebounds, so people pile the pounds on when they come off it.’ Many wellness experts argue that this dramatic change isn’t sustainable in the long-term, and so you carbo-load as soon as you get off Atkins, and all that hard work has been for nothing.
Sian Porter, a consultant dietician for the British Dietetic Association, commented, ‘Like all diets, when it comes to Atkins, there is some truth in the rumour – there is some underlying scientific evidence – but proof cutting out carbs is the best way to lose weight just isn’t there. She added that there’s no diet that is the be all and end all of weight loss, noting, ‘Diets are fads, but it’s about making permanent changes. Plus what you eat is only half the equation, the other half is physical activity.’
According to Paul Gately, professor of exercise and obesity at Leeds Metropolitan University, the Atkins diet and other low-carb diets have also led to misunderstandings among the general public. ‘One has to differentiate between simple and complex carbohydrates,’ he said. ‘Also, people tend to use carbs when they mean white rice, pasta and bread, but fruit and vegetables are healthy, and they are absolutely carbs, so sometimes the terminology isn’t appropriate in context.’