Juvenon Health Journal volume 1 number 3 september 2002
The Atkins Diet: Important But Flawed
An estimated 61% of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese. The extra weight takes an increasing toll as we age. Diabetes, heart disease and a prediabetic state, known as Syndrome X, are significantly more common among the overweight. Numerous articles and books recommend specific diets to help people lose weight and return to a healthy physical state. Many of these diets are short-lived fads. One that has endured since Dr. Atkins introduced it in the 1970’s is the Atkins Diet.
The Atkins Diet has enjoyed considerable popularity, for one simple reason. Most people who try it do lose some weight – for a while. Then, typically, they “hit a wall,” cease losing weight, get discouraged, and go off the diet. Soon, in most cases, their weight is right back where it was when they started. In view of the impact of this regimen on exquisitely regulated metabolic pathways, this result is not surprising. The Atkins Diet severely restricts fruit, vegetables and carbohydrates, while emphasizing the consumption of protein and fat. The idea that a high-fat diet could lead to weight loss was counter-intuitive, but highly popular.
Prior to developing his diet, Dr. Atkins had an important insight. The US government had been concerned that Americans were consuming too much fat. Through its food pyramid, the government therefore encouraged a shift toward carbohydrates. People continued to ingest the same number of calories but shifted from high-fat foods, such as red meat, to carbohydrates, such as foods prepared from refined grains and doused with sugar for taste.
Dr. Atkins concluded, however, that Americans consume an inordinate amount of carbohydrates, especially refined flour and sugar, the ingredients of junk food. The evidence is now overwhelming that these foods are associated with dramatic increases in diabetes and heart disease. It has also been demonstrated that a high carbohydrate-low fat diet stimulates fat synthesis and storage, decreases insulin sensitivity and increases the incidence of diabetes. Dr. Atkins’s greatest contribution is his recognition that increased consumption of simple sugars (that is, foods with a high glycemic index), as well as refined grain products, is detrimental to our health. He correctly encourages decreasing our consumption of junk foods (soft drinks, candy, and refined flour products).
Dr. Atkins sought to address two significant nutritional problems, obesity and junk food, but his diet is flawed. It goes too far with the promotional promise of “eat all the fatty food your heart desires and still lose weight.” This seductive statement contradicts the most documented method to lose weight and improve health, namely, caloric restriction, or reduction in the total quantity of calories consumed. Furthermore, the utilization of fats for energy must be coordinated with fuel from carbohydrates, as indicated by the adage, “fats burn in the flame of carbohydrates.” Considerable evidence supports the hypothesis that lopsided burning of fat for energy increases free radical production, thus promoting tissue damage and accelerating aging. This finding underscores the conviction of many health professionals that a healthy diet is a balanced diet.
Dr. Atkins claims that the Atkins diet actually increases lipolysis (utilization of fat for energy). It may do so initially, but the body soon compensates. When the products of fat breakdown (ketone bodies) inevitably reach a high level in the blood, the body inhibits lipolysis. This may be the reason why some who start on this diet hit a resistance point and lose no additional weight. Moreover, Dr. Atkins incorrectly claims the brain prefers fat breakdown products (ketone bodies) for fuel. It is a well-established fact that the brain is highly dependent on glucose for energy. It reverts to ketone bodies as fuel only when glucose has been depleted. Furthermore, a high blood level of ketone bodies lowers the pH of the blood and can overwhelm the kidney’s ability to maintain an acid-base balance, thus potentially damaging tissue. The diet is also high in protein that, if more than 40% of total calories, can overwhelm the liver’s ability to remove toxic ammonia, a product of protein metabolism. High protein and low carbohydrates can actually induce insulin resistance and the prediabetic state. Finally, a significant flaw in the Atkins’ Diet is the lack of sufficient quantities of fruits and vegetables, especially the former. Recent evidence clearly supports an important role for these two plant substances in maintaining a healthy disease-free state.
It’s widely recognized that controlling weight is essential to healthy aging and avoidance of diseases associated with aging. A balanced diet and exercise (a subject worthy of separate consideration) are proven means to control weight. Support groups may also be helpful. In any case, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and, as Dr. Atkins advised, avoid junk food. Watch overall caloric intake and maintain a nutritional balance, so that, of your total calories, carbohydrates represent 35-45%, fats 25-35% (with no more than 12% from saturated fat, and virtually no trans fats) and protein 20-25%.
Dr. Treadwell answers your questions about Juvenon™ Cellular Health Supplement
QUESTION: How did you determine the optimal dose of Juvenon Energy Formula?
J. D., Los Angeles, CA
ANSWER: We first looked at dozens of clinical studies carried out in Europe and the U.S. over the past 30 years, using each of our key ingredients separately in a wide range of doses. After determining the levels at which the ingredients are well tolerated, we evaluated efficacy parameters, including mental alertness and attitude, sense of well-being, energy level, and sleep patterns.
Our recommendation of 2 tablets/day is based on numerous human studies, in which the responses were examined across a range of doses. Our experience is that 2/day is optimal for more than 75% of people. However, some individuals find they obtain a more pronounced effect with a somewhat higher dose (up to 3 or even 4 a day) and a few people prefer 1/day. The variation in response to the different doses is clearly related to differences in metabolism and reflects human genetic variability.
Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D., is a former Harvard Medical School associate professor and member of Juvenon’s Scientific Advisory Board.