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The Long-term Safety and Effectiveness of Low-Carbohydrate Diets

Satisfactory Essays
As the obsession with "losing weight" continues, many people are

turning to low-carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins diet. With total

book sales over 45 million, many doctors are starting to ask

questions about the safety of a high fat, high protein diet. There have

been many short-term studies reporting that a low-carbohydrate diet

can be effective for weight loss. Unfortunately, most studies have

been based on data collected for 90 days or less. Dieters and

Doctors alike could benefit from long-term studies reporting on safety

and weight loss after a year or more. In 2003, there were three trials

reporting on the long-term effectiveness and side effects of the Atkins

diet. These studies followed obese dieters who were following the

Atkins low-carbohydrate diet. The results were then compared to the

standard low-fat diet, which has been recommended by doctors for

years. From the results of these studies we must decide if weight

loss equals health and what should be considered acceptable risk?

Weight loss was the primary focus of most of the studies done on the

Atkins diet. Dieters are looking for results and a decrease in weight,

not necessarily fat, is the ultimate goal. All three studies showed

greater weight loss after six months of a low-carbohydrate diet than

the same time spent on a low-fat diet. On average low-carbohydrate

dieters lost about 4kgs, or roughly 9lbs, more than the low-fat dieters.

This is one reason why the Atkins diet has become so popular;

dieters see results more quickly. Many people are only on the diet for

a few months and then go back to eating normally. For those that

stick with it, it was found that after twelve months there was no longer

a significant difference in weight loss between the low-fat and the

low-carbohydrate groups. Although result happened quickly, in the

long run the Atkins diet didn’t prove to be any more effective at weight

loss than the low-fat diet. Studies of more than a year are nearly

non-existent and the studies referred to here contain flaws. More

research needs to be done before we can reach a definitive answer.

At the moment, it seems that for the first 3-6 months the Atkins diet

may be more effective than a low-fat diet. In the long term however

there is no indication that a low-carbohydrate diet is better. For both

diets, participants had trouble following the guidelines and many
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