Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki, MPH
Atkins diet is a popular, high protein, and low-carbohydrates diet. Atkins was aware that diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (white breads, pasta, cereal, and other processed foods) tend to increase production of insulin which stimulates the body to convert these carbohydrates into fat (in the form of triglycerides). Apart from that, Atkins knew that as soon as the diet is very low in carbohydrates, the body starts to burn fat for energy, which, by the way, is the main goal of all those who attempt to lose weight. Therefore, he thought, that radical reduction of carbohydrates consumption and increasing protein and fat consumption, would solve the problem of obesity.
The problem, however, is that even though the Atkins diet often helps its followers to lose weight yet at the same time it produces dangerous side effects. For this reason it is much better and safe to follow a plant-based and free from refined carbohydrates diet. After all, a careful review of scientific literature, such as famous China Study, clearly indicates that it is always people who mainly consume unrefined and high in complex carbohydrates plant foods that are most healthy, live longest, and are free from obesity and overweight. Yes, it is true that apart from fat also carbohydrates can lead to obesity. Yet, it is not complex carbohydrates which are responsible but only the refined ones.
According to the first book of the Bible – the book of Genesis (1:29) our original diet consisted only of fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts. It is clear therefore, that although we also need some protein and fat (present in plant foods too) yet complex carbohydrates are supposed to be our primary source of energy. It means, that whenever we make animal protein and fat the main source of energy for our body, it is like attempting to drive a car on water mixed with a little bit of petrol. The metabolic trick, therefore, or secret of the high protein and fat diets is that the body can’t metabolize food properly if it does not include proper amount of carbohydrates in it. Thus, although this diet is still high in calories, you may not gain weight because now your body is forced to burn fat. This unnatural change of the energy source, however, always leads to certain undesirable and even dangerous consequences such as ketosis, calcium depletion, or high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In addition, avoiding high in complex carbohydrates plant foods results in depriving our organism of powerful phyto-chemicals as well as vitamins and minerals. Switching to a diet which is high in fat and animal protein also means starving our own body for its natural fuel. How long you are able to survive on such diet depends on the ability of your body to resist this kind of mistreatment.
Although some studies suggest that a diet which is high in protein and low in carbohydrates may result in modest weight loss, yet by now I’ve heard only about one study which was done to demonstrate the long-term effects of such diet. And, as I expected, this 25 years long study proved that Atkins diet increases the risk of heart disease. Three years after the study started the participants’ cholesterol level got dangerously high. Professor Johansson who was the study leader, said: “While high-fat and low-carbohydrate diets may help short-term weight loss, the results of this study demonstrate that long-term weight loss is not maintained and that this diet increases blood cholesterol, which has a major impact on risk of cardiovascular disease.”
On the basis of a dietary survey, a group of researchers estimated that the decrease in carbohydrates intake by 20g and increase of animal protein intake by only 5g a day, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 5%. On the Atkins diet, however, people consume huge amounts of animal protein and fat every day which means that the risk of experiencing heart attack here should be regarded as enormous!
According to Dr. McDougal, “scientific evidence made it clear that Atkins diet is not healthy because research demonstrated that 70 percent of the people following Atkins diet were constipated, 60 percent had bad breath, and many experienced headaches”. “You can lose weight” he concluded, “but you sacrifice your health for a short-term weight loss”.
After reading Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, the President of the American College of Nutrition stated that, “Of all the bizarre diets that have been proposed in the last 50 years, this is the most dangerous to the public if followed for any length of time.”
I personally find many reasons and evidences to believe that the longer any high-fat and animal protein diet is followed the more dangerous and harmful it is. After all, it is exactly the same with any potentially harmful food or substance. Stimulants such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine or cigarette smoking can be an excellent example. Today everybody agrees that stimulants are very dangerous and harmful but usually people have to keep on using them for a long time in order to develop serious health-related problems. In 19th century cigarette smoking was often regarded as healthy and it was even prescribed as a form of remedy. It was so because at that time there were no studies showing a long-term effects of this harmful habit. And I am sure this is true also with regards to Atkins or any other high animal protein and fat diet. Most people, however, aren’t able to remain on the Atkins Diet long enough to develop cancer, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, or kidney damage. That’s why to many people the harmful effects of this diet are still not clear.
I have personally met many followers of high fat and animal protein diet who told me that initially everything seemed to be right, and some of them indeed managed to lose weight, but after one or two years of consuming mostly meat and other animal foods they started experiencing various inflammations, kidney, liver and cardiovascular problems, and some even cancer. My friend who worked as a nurse in a nursing home told me about three elderly individuals who were together following a low-carbohydrates and high fat and animal protein diet and as a result all of them died after only a few months of practicing this extremely dangerous nutritional approach.
It is true that some people, like for example Winston Churchill, may abuse their body and health through unhealthy diet and stimulants even for a long time without expected consequences. Few of them can even able to live a long life in spite of unhealthy lifestyle. But, it is so only because they are blessed with a strong and resistant to diseases and health problems organism. However, because we don’t know whether we possess such a powerful genes it is much safer to not take the risk. Apart from that, even if you are lucky to have such a strong body, it is still better to avoid animal foods, stimulants and refined plant products as it would farther improve your physical and emotional well-being, prevent a lot of suffering and prolong your life.
After all, I personally knew some “brave” individuals who while abusing their health kept saying that sooner or later everybody has to die. But when later the same men developed cancer, they asked for help with tears in their eyes because they were afraid of dying and desperately desired to live longer. It is true we all have to die, but we may greatly reduce suffering, we can live more abundantly, enjoy this life, and prolong it. And, after all, we don’t have to die for ever if we only accept the most wonderful gift of eternal life God offers in His Word to anyone who is willing to accept it through sincere faith in His Son.
Although initially sometimes this high-protein and fat diet surprisingly seems to bring some positive results, yet many of those who were practicing it experience different side effects and health problems such as difficulty concentrating, loss of energy or fatigue, liver and kidney problems, skin conditions, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, heart-related problems, cancer, various inflammations, etc. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that any diet which is high in animal protein is associated with increased risk of osteoporosis, cancer or kidney problems, whereas consumption of animal fat greatly contributes to the development of cardiovascular diseases (especially heart attacks and strokes), different types of cancer, or diabetes.
According to Mayo Clinic specialists Atkins diet, which is very low in fiber, may greatly contributes to the development of colon cancer, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, or digestive problems such as bloated stomach.
In some cases Atkins diet turned to be not only unhealthy but extremely dangerous as sometimes it led to death. Here are some examples of people who are believed to develop serious health problems or lost their lives as a result of practicing this diet:
A 50-year-old businessman by the name Jody Gorran had a healthy heart before he started following the Atkins diet. A heart scan conducted six months before he decided to switch to this dangerous diet revealed no plaque nor any heart-related problems. However, after over two years of being on this high in animal protein and fat diet, his cholesterol level rose from 145 to 230. He began experiencing angina and eventually even artery blockage. As a result Gorran underwent angioplasty, and his cardiologist informed him that he was very closed to death.
A 41-year-old man who had no prior history of heart disease decided to switch to Atkins diet. After some time of being on this diet he experienced a sudden heart attack, and the autopsy showed a massive heart malfunction.
Another man who also prior to going on the Atkins diet had normal blood cholesterol levels and a healthy heart (which was proved by medical examination), after only two years on this animal-based diet, developed chest pain and suffered from a massive blockage in his heart followed by severe heart attack.
Sometimes, however, the Atkins diet may trigger harmful side effects in a very short period of time. The best example of such quick and even lethal effect could be the case of Rachel Huskey – the sixteen year old high school student who died after only seven weeks of being on Atkins diet. She suddenly collapsed in history class and died. Her doctors as well as nutritionists and experts blamed the Atkins Diet saying that in Rachel’s case the high-fat and animal protein diet caused severe potassium and calcium deficiency which eventually lead to heart failure and death.
The Atkins diet causes an accumulation of ketones in the body leading to ketosis or ketoacidosis which is the result of converting fat to energy (this process never occurs when unrefined carbohydrates are used as a primary source of energy). In order to induce ketosis, the followers of Atkins diet are encouraged to consume less than 50 g of carbohydrates per day (most carbohydrate-based diets consist of at least 300 g a day). The most common symptoms of ketosis include fatigue (usually after just two days on Atkins diet), weakness or tiredness, irritability, headaches, bad breath, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, confusion, indigestion, hair loss, etc.
Dr. Michael Greger mentions about Canadian soldiers who during World War II were given to eat only a carbohydrate-free meat food mixed with animal fat. After only a couple of days on such ketogenic (Atkins) diet their performance was extremely deteriorated and they were described as “a group of listless, dehydrated men with drawn faces and sunken eyeballs, whose breath smelled strongly of acetone.”
High-protein and low-carbohydrate diets such as Atkins diet are even designed to induce ketoacidosis, which can be very dangerous and which occurs, for example, in uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center excessive amount of ketones (regarded as toxins) in the body poison the blood and generate a harmful acid imbalance leading to vomiting and fatigue.
By the way, accumulation of toxins in the body is the reason why people on Atkins diet may be able to control or loose appetite. In some cases, however, this ketoacidosis may even dehydrate human body and lead to a coma. In order to remove toxins (such as ketones) from the body kidneys have to use calcium and potassium stored in the body. People on the Atkins Diet, therefore, tend to urinate away these two very important minerals thus causing their deficiency. Consequently, as soon as the body is deprived of calcium and potassium the heart muscle can’t do its work properly and start suffering from fatal cardiac arrhythmias. And as a matter of fact, that was the very cause of Rachel’s sudden death. The autopsy demonstrated she had critically low levels of both calcium and potassium, and that her sudden death was caused by cardiac arrhythmia. It is also important to stress the fact that Rachel had no history of any medical problems and was previously in good health. She went on Atkins diet because she hoped it would help her to lose weight.
D. H. from Canada in the following way described the long-term experienced with Atkins diet: “I have been following Atkins diet for 25 years but in the past year I thought that I was losing my mind. Someone convinced me that the high protein diet might be causing the problem”. After switching to a vegan unrefined diet she wrote: “Through some research, I found you – and downloaded your books! Within 3 weeks I am sleeping through the night (2 years without sleep) and my hot flashes are totally gone. I am waking up in the morning and I want to live again! My friends and fiance cannot believe the change in me. My brain was lacking so much serotonin!”
On the internet you can also find other interesting testimonies written by followers of Atkins diet. Here is one of them: “I have been following the Atkins diet since January 2004. Although I was feeling very tired all the time I achieved my weight goal. I did pay a price though. I was diagnosed with kidney stones. I had constant back pain during my whole low carb experience, never before. I broke out in rashes, vomited for 5 days. Finally I grabbed bread toast and grits and I KEPT IT DOWN!!! My Atkins warped brain could understand that my body needed carbs to heal, to run.”
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, although never followed the Atkins approach, yet his diet used to be always high in animal fat and protein. As a result he experienced a massive heart attack followed by quadruple heart-bypass surgery. After that event, which almost cost him his life, he decided to give the unrefined and plant-based (vegan) diet a try. Clinton switched to a plant-based diet in 2011 and after only several months he lost 24 pounds. Today, being still on this diet, he is slim, fit, and healthier than ever. During his CNN interview he said: “When I had my second heart incident and I had the stents put in, I had passed all my physicals, I was doing great, but I was still building up plaque in my arteries. Getting rid of the dairy was great, getting rid of the meat was — I just don’t miss it…, and I feel great… I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now. All my blood tests are good, and I feel good. I also have more energy.”
The incredibly popular Atkins’ Diet got under fire especially after a sudden death of its founder. Shortly after Atkins died his personal medical records were accidently revealed, indicating he suffered from coronary heart disease and weighed 258 pounds at the time of his death. Even the mayor of New York made a public comment according to which Atkins was overweight. Later it was also revealed that in April of 2002 Atkins already experienced his first cardiac arrest from which he almost died. He also suffered from cardiomyopathy (severe myocardial disease leading to heart failure), which definitely was the result of his diet. Back in 1980 it was already proved that the low in carbohydrates and high in animal protein and fat Atkins diet doubles the amount of an irritating kind of fat present in the blood called free fatty acids. Free fatty acids greatly increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmia leading to cardiac arrest. And that was the condition Atkins already suffered from in 2002 and which most probably caused or at least greatly contributed later to his death. Apart from animal fat and protein also the lack of dietary fiber (which is found only in unrefined plant foods) in Atkins diet is associated with increased risk of heart disease and also with other problems such as constipation, colon cancer or diabetes.
Apart from America also in other countries the Atkins diet seems to be very popular, especially among those who want to lose weight. The best example could be Poland where similar nutritional approach has been popularized by Dr. Kwasniewski and known as the “optimal diet”. Kwasniewski modified Atkins diet and made it even more dangerous and extreme by adding more animal fat, pork, lard, and other most dangerous and deprived of essential nutrients foods. Almost 3 million Poles are on this diet including former president and Solidarity Movement leader – Lech Walesa. Unfortunately, it is still popular because it allows its followers to consume a lot of meat and animal fat they love without gaining weight. However, during my 15-years long career as a health promoter in Poland I had a privilege to give about one thousand public health lectures all over the country which gave me numerous opportunities to meet people who were or used to be on this very high in animal fat diet called “optimal”. Many of them told me they gave up on it because they developed arthrosclerosis, liver and kidney problems, skin conditions, various inflammations, and other numerous problems.
Finally, any diet which is based on meat products and dairy deserve to be called “suicidal” or a “Kamikaze diet” rather than “optimal”. It is very dangerous simply because animal products may contain extremely risky factors such as: prions, cancer cells, Leukemia virus, dioxins, antibiotics, adrenalin, uric acid, cholesterol, triglycerides, and many other deadly agents which are never present in plant foods. Yes, plant products may be contaminated with pesticides but according to PETA and other reliable sources meat products contain 15 times as much pesticides as plant foods, and dairy over five times as many! Animal foods contain much more pesticides and other toxins because animals keep absorbing them from plants throughout all their lifetime. In addition, almost 100% of human exposure to extremely dangerous and carcinogenic dioxins, comes through meat, dairy, and fish consumption.
Any diet which is based mostly on animal products greatly shortens human lifespan. The best example are the Masai in Africa who are on low-carbohydrate and high in animal protein and fat diet. They eat mainly meat and milk and live an average of only 35 years. By contrast, the diet of Akikuyu, another African tribe, is based mostly on vegetables such as corn and sweet potatoes. Akikuyu live an average of 30 years longer than Masai and weigh 23 pounds less.
It is also a well-known and proved fact that Atkins diet increases levels of homocysteine which is a dangerous neurotoxic and vasculotoxic byproduct of defective protein metabolism. Homocysteine is regarded as very dangerous because its elevated levels are believed to be a powerful marker of stroke and heart attack risk. In addition, homocysteine has been associated also with cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, birth defects, osteoporosis, or fatal blood clots. According to Dr. Michael Greger, who in one of his studies measured homocysteine levels in participants who were on different diets, “Atkins followers suffered a highly significant worsening of their homocysteine levels”. He also concluded that “in the year-long study homocysteine levels tended to rise on the Atkins Diet, yet after just one week on a vegan diet, those with elevated homocysteine levels had their levels drop of 20% in just a single week”.
Healthy plant diets that are successful in reducing body weight also lower the level of bad LDL cholesterol, as well as another dangerous factor called “C-reactive protein” (CRP) which is regarded as even more important risk factor than elevated cholesterol levels. Studies demonstrated that high levels of CRP can increase the risk of heart attack (and stroke) by almost five times! However, one study clearly demonstrated that participants who were on Atkins diet for just over a month doubled their CRP levels despite of losing their body fat! Vegan (100% plant-based) diet combined with exercise again proved to be effective also in this case and managed to lower the level of this dangerous factor by almost 50% in just two weeks. The same vegan diet but without exercise was able to drop the CRP levels by 30%. A similar result was achieved by statin drugs. Statin, however, would also cause some dangerous side effects – especially muscle pain, tiredness or muscle weakness, as statins affect not only production of cholesterol in the liver, but also several enzymes in muscle cells that are responsible for muscle growth. The question, therefore is, why on earth almost all physicians still prescribe statins instead of unrefined vegan diet with exercise?
Unlike vegan diet the Atkins Diet increases the levels of both LDL and Lp(a) type of cholesterol. We know that LDL is a bad type of cholesterol, but Lp(a) or lipoprotein(a) is regarded as even worse and stronger risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Dr. W. Castelli, the head of the famous Framingham Study, stated that we have been “brainwashed to eat meat.”, and that if people were willing to go on a plant-based diet, the whole problem of coronary heart disease or strokes would disappear. According to the 2005 study which included almost thirty thousand participants the more meat was consumed the greatest risk of heart disease. The same study also demonstrated that it wasn’t only animal fat but also animal protein which was responsible for higher risk of CHD. However, unlike the animal protein, the high intake of plant protein such as legumes (beans, lentils, chick peace, etc.), tofu (soy cheese), or nuts lowered the risk of heart disease by 30 percent! That was the reason why the head of the study – Dr. Linda Kelemen, stated at the press conference that animal protein and plant proteins are not equal because while vegetable protein can prevent heart disease, eating animal protein leads us to a premature death.
Both Atkins diet in America and “optimal” diet in Poland contradict what the One who created us and knows best what our nutritional needs are said in His Word concerning our diet: “Then God said, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food”. Likewise, even concerning the diet of all the animals God said: “I give every green plant for food. And it was so” (Genesis 1:29). Our Creator made it clear that the best and “optimal” type of food for us is not meat nor even dairy but only unrefined and fresh plant foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes (pulses), seeds, and nuts.
After the flood God allowed consumption of clean animal foods but only because there was no plant food available. However, He forbade consumption of animal fat, pork, rabbit, shellfish, and any meat which may contain blood: “And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:-8); “It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood” (Lev 3:17). Also the New Testament bids us to “abstain from … blood, and from what has been strangled” (Acts 15:28-29).
The truth is, however, that today animals that are killed for meat are never properly bled. Therefore, significant amount of blood is always present in meat. Blood is very dangerous not only because it contains cholesterol, triglycerides, or because it may be contaminated with bacteria, virus, cancer cells, or prions, but also because it is high in toxins or the stress hormone – adrenaline. Infamous Italian Borgia family was known to produce a poison by setting dogs on a pig. In this way the scared pig’s blood was so high in adrenaline it was able to kill not only human beings but even big animals such as horses.
But you may wonder why so many people decided to follow such harmful and dangerous high animal protein and fat diet. First of all, they do it because the majority of people love meat products, fried fatty foods, or cheese; Second, because they are deceived by a short-term reduction of body weight; And third, because they are brain-washed, not only by Atkins but even by many dieticians and health organizations who kept repeating a lie according to which we need animal protein in order to maintain health. Adolf Hitler and one of his disciples – Joseph Goebels believed and successfully implemented a tricky and highly deceptive rule according to which, ”If someone keeps telling people a lie long enough loud enough and often enough, they will eventually believe it”. And, “the bigger the lie is the more willing people are to believe in it”. Unfortunately, the same principle proved to be effective not only in attracting people to fascism, or the totally unjustified evolution or the big bang theory, but also in deceiving millions of people to follow the suicidal Atkins diet in America and the Optimal diet in Poland.
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