Atkins Diet: Not What this Doctor Ordered

According to Dr. Fuhrman's books, Americans consume about 40 percent of their calories from animal products, which has contributed to the increase of cancer and heart disease in the past fifty years. So how does this information impact high-protein weight-loss plans like the Atkins diet? Consider this passage from Eat to Live:

The Atkins diet (and other diets rich in animal products and low in fruits and unrefined carbohydrates) is likely to significantly increase a person's risk of colon cancer. Scientific studies show a clear and strong relationship between cancers of the digestive tract, bladder, and prostate with low fruit consumption. What good is a diet that lowers your weight but also dramatically increases your chances of developing cancer?

A meat-based, low-fiber diet, like the one Atkins advocates, includes little or no fruit, no starchy vegetables, and no whole grains. Following Atkin's recommendations could more than double your risk of certain cancers, especially meat-sensitive cancers, such as epithelial cancers of the respiratory tract.1 For example, a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute looked at lung cancer in nonsmoking women so that smoking would not be a major variable. Researchers found that the relative risk of lung cancer was six times greater in women in the highest fifth of saturated-fat consumption than those in the lowest fifth.

The March 18 issue of Lancet includes research suggesting that the Atkins diet can also cause some other major health complications. Steven Reinberg of Healthday News reports on a case from the study:

The patient had followed the Atkins diet, including Atkins supplements. She went to the hospital with difficulty breathing and was diagnosed with a condition called ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis results when dangerously high levels of acids called ketones build up in the blood. Ketones are produced in the liver during starvation. A low-carbohydrate diet such as Atkins can lead to ketone production, Lessnau's team notes.

"She had to be admitted to the intensive care unit," Lessnau said. "The diet actually caused her acidosis."

Lessnau is surprised that this problem with the Atkins diet has not been reported before. "This is something that is not well-diagnosed or may be underreported," he said.

"The Atkins diet is not a safe diet in everybody," Lessnau said. "It can cause potentially life-threatening problems."

Dr. Fuhrman says most weight loss plans are a waste of your money.

For more about how Dr. Fuhrman does recommend losing weight, read this outline, and these thoughts on diets.

1. De Stefani, E.L. Fierro, M. Mendilaharsu, et al. 1998. Meat intake, "mate" drinking and renal cell cancer in Uruguay: a case-control study. Br. J. Cancer 78 (9): 1239-43; Risch, H. A., M. Jain, L.D. Marrett, and G.R. Howe. 1994. Dietary fat intake and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. J. Nat. Cancer Inst. 86 (18): 1409-15; Pillow, P.C., S.D. Hursting, C.M. Duphorne, et al. 1997. Case-control assessment of diet and lung cancer risk in African Americans and Mexican Americans. Nutr. Cancer 29 (2):169-73; Alavanja, M.C., C.C. Brown, C. Swanson, and R.C. Brownson. 1993. Saturated fat intake and lung cancer risk amoung nonsmoking women in Missouri. J. Nat. Cancer Inst. 85(23): 1906-16.

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