"You're just a normal person who's been victimized by those who don't tell you that the low-fat diet forces you to eat more carbohydrates, the very food that makes you fat."

These are the famous words from Dr. Robert C. Atkins, author of the best selling dieting book, The New Diet Revolution. 

His diet's claim to fame is the consumption of a diet high in protein and all types of fat, but low in carbohydrates, allowing the body to store less body fat and remain at a constant weight. This will cause the loss of weight and fat to create a thinner appearance.

In this argumentative essay, we will explore the importance and functions of protein, carbohydrate, and fat in our body, find out why there is interest surrounding the Atkins Diet, and then look at the health risks involved in using The Atkins Diet. Let us begin by explaining the importance and functions of the three macronutrients available to the body.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrate (Cho), fat (saturated and unsaturated) and protein are the macronutrients used for fuel in the body. There are three types of carbohydrates called simple, complex and fibrous. We must understand that all carbohydrates put into the human body must convert to sugar in the liver. Carbohydrates provide us with energy to fuel our working muscle and to provide our brain with energy to complete everyday functions. The higher the cho content in our diet, the more glycogen stores in the muscle cells and liver can take place. Thus, more cho is available for use when muscle and liver glycogen reserves are high.

All cho we consume are eventually converted to glucose and used up by the body or stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle cell. We just cannot function properly without this macronutrient. Once all of our cho is used up we tap into our fat stores next for fuel. It is important to realize that any excess calories from carbohydrates, fats or proteins taken in daily will store as body fat if not used. Depending on the duration and intensity of the exercise, the greater the proportion of fat can be used for energy. There are two major types of fat, Saturated fats (solid at room temperature) and Unsaturated fats (liquid at room temperature.)

We want to consume as little of saturated fats (lower than 10% of overall intake) as possible, as these fats accumulate in our arteries and harden causing heart problems, arteriosclerosis, and raised low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are unhealthy cholesterol. Fat aids our internal organs, helps with thermal temperatures but, the conversion of fat into energy is slow and cannot be adequately supplied during intense physical activity. Once all of the fat possible for energy use is used, the body will go into the state of protein sparing. Protein provides structure for our body tissues and helps us stand upright with the aid of our skeletal system. Protein alone builds the hormones and enzymes that are vital to life, helping our immune system stay strong and healthy while being used in many hormonal functions as well.

PROTEINS

Proteins are made of molecular units called amino acids and there are twenty amino acids and nine are essential to the body making a complete protein. Protein can be supplied to the body through plant and animal sources. Proteins are digested a lot slower than carbohydrate and provide our body with fuel only after cho and fat are unavailable. Protein is needed for all recovery, repair and re-growth of our tissue, tendons, ligaments and muscle.

Let us have a look at the diet itself. The Atkins diet claims that by eating high protein, high fat and low carbohydrate diet, our main energy source glucose is eliminated and we will burn fat for energy and lose weight. He suggests cutting out most or all cho from our diet and consuming high protein foods that are visibly high in fat. Well guess what? It works! You will lose weight! However what he doesn't explain is that when our cho are restricted fat isn't the only form of energy used. Our own protein supplies are used for energy and we sacrifice lean muscle, tendon, ligament, organ and other vital lean tissue. Carbohydrates, the most important energy source for our brain and exercising muscle, are the only food that can be used for anaerobic energy production (cardio and weight training). It can produce energy three times faster than fat and requires less oxygen to do so. This high fat and protein diet along with its low cho intake increases the risk for heart and liver disease, kidney problems and many cancers.

PROBLEMS WITH ATKINS

When the body's liver and muscle glycogen stores are low or the rate we are able to convert fat and protein to glucose is slowed, our body will produce a feeling of sluggishness or staleness. This state causes difficulty recovering from workouts, chronic fatigue, depression, insomnia, poor performance, frequent infections, injuries and loss of interest in high levels of training. Any diet that severely limits our intake of cho will result in the rapid depletion of muscle and liver glycogen as well as water from the body causing cramping and dehydration. With the extra intake of saturated fats, our bodies store this fat along the arteriole walls hardening them, causing arteriosclerosis and higher overall cholesterol levels and mainly the LDL (low density lipoproteins), which are the dangerous cholesterol. Saturated fats are the cause of most heart diseases yet, Atkins claims people have come to him and needed triple bypass surgery and then after being on his diet, did not need the surgery anymore. I am not the only person sceptical of his claims. Many other physicians have challenged him by asking to see the data that concludes these impossible claims. No data or reply has been or was ever offered to this date from doctor Atkins. Unfortunately, he died in the year 2003 from a serious head wound from a fall.

Atkins suggests restricting cho intake to less than twenty grams a day causing glycogen stores to deplete reducing blood-sugar levels. This causes our body and our pancreas to produce less insulin, which is a hormone that promotes the use of blood sugar by muscle and other tissues and causes excess calories to be stored as fat. To put it simply, blood sugar and insulin have a lock and key relationship, without the key of insulin our cells are locked from receiving energy they need to live. Atkins theory states with less insulin, the body is forced to rob its own energy bank of fat stores, by breaking down fat molecules into glycerine and fatty acids, which are broken down into ketone bodies (ketones come from our brain).

These ketone bodies are then used by the cells in place of glucose, which results in a state of dietary ketosis. So if fat is primarily being used for fuel and cho are not storing as fat we will lose weight and fat. Carbohydrate loss does mean water loss, so when starchy foods are broken down in our body (1 gram of cho with 3 grams of water) the weight loss includes a lot of water weight giving people on the diet a lot of water not fat loss also. This also leads to cellular dehydration, which can lead to a catabolic (breaking down of muscle) state in the long term. Less muscle mass means a lower metabolic rate that in turn will lower our fat burning potential and is not good for people interested in fat loss and lowering their LDL or overall cholesterol count. These are some areas Dr. Atkins would not speak about openly. Nevertheless, his book, food supplements, food and vitamin sales have skyrocketed selling to the lazy, sedentary people who think they have found the quick fix to curb their appetite and win the battle of the bulge.

LONG-TERM EFFECTS

There is overwhelming evidence that the Atkins Diet may carry other long-term effects. This includes increased cortisol levels, a catabolic hormone in our body that can cause muscle breakdown. The hormone insulin suppresses cortisol and with the low insulin output due to lack of cho, cortisol levels may increase. High levels of cortisol have been linked to many diseases including some forms of cancer. A decreased immune function also can occur. A study published in the journal, Life Science, concludes after extensive aerobic exercise we suffer impaired neutrophil bactericidal function, due to the induced increases in cortisol and ketone bodies. This state may cause increases and susceptibility to infection after exercise. With the lack of nutrients available in the Atkins diet, this may hinder our immune functions and cause bacterial invasion and infection. Vitamin and Mineral imbalances may also occur as a direct result of the Atkins diet. During this diet, many whole food groups are pulled from our diet and may leave the body deficient in some of our vitamins and minerals. Dr. Atkins recommended a multi vitamin and multimineral supplement when on his diet. The diet is also very low in dietary fibre and clinical studies show whole grains, fruits and vegetables to be quite beneficial in fighting cancer and heart disease.

The Atkins diet may be beneficial for short-term weight loss; however there is too much evidence suggesting this and other diets alike lead to long-term adverse health problems. Most of the patients studied lost weight on the Atkins diet only to gain in back plus 10-50 extra pounds of weight within the next six months to a year. Thus the weight loss is short-term and the body ends up heavier, dehydrated, weak, exhausted, functioning with a lower metabolism and a lot of excess fat storage. To lose weight safely and effectively, we must consume a well balanced diet in carbohydrates, proteins, fibre and essential fats, exercise moderately to strengthen the heart and organs, drink ample amounts of water, get adequate sleep, consume essential fatty acids, and consume 5-6 small frequent meals to feed our body throughout the day. This will effectively raise our body's metabolism. The Atkins Diet has proved to be a quick fix diet that causes more internal harm to the body and cannot be used for long periods of time without causing physical exhaustion and depletion.

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