The lowdown on the Atkins diet in 2005

By Judson T. Allen

The latest diet craze of significantly reducing carbohydrate consumption has finally placed protein as the king of the throne. The diet is emphasized on everyone’s menus and grocery lists, but will this last long into the new year?

If you have gone through the drive-thru of your favorite fast food restaurant ordering a #2 or 3 – with no bun – or eaten at such restaurants as TGI Friday’s and Applebee’s ordering from the low-carb menu, you know all about this “fad” diet.

According to the USDA, over 40 million Americans adopted this low-carb lifestyle last year.

Producing quick weight loss for those eager to shed pounds, Atkins conveniently forgot to add on his products that the chances are great that you will gain those pounds back, plus some.

Although some of you might feel bamboozled, squandering your money on this “fad,” you might not be the only ones regretting such an investment.

Recently there has been a tremendous decline in low-carb product sales in all facets, and many believe that this once exalted diet will soon meet its demise.

Robert C. Atkins, author of Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, introduced the Atkins Diet in 1972, being the first low-carb diet to reach the public minds and is still the most popular of all low-carb diets. This four-phased diet, which is based on the theory that overweight individuals eat too many carbohydrates, has drastically limited the amount of carb intake to below the recommended daily intake (RDI). It emphasizes meats, cheese and eggs (protein), discouraging such foods as breads, fruits and sugar.

Atkins has initiated a variety of low-carb products being advertised from many different entities. Coca Cola and Pepsi launched their carb-friendly products C2 and Pepsi Edge in 2004.

Because of the phenomenal success of Atkins, these cola companies, restaurants and food companies felt an urge to profit from this fad, creating product lines that appealed to the low-carb dieter.

Well, like most fads, be it diets, fashion or even music, the Atkins diet fad will eventually come to an end. According to NPD Group, a market research firm, an estimated 9.1 percent of Americans shared in the success of this fad in the beginning of 2004, while in November, consumers fell to 3.6 percent and are expected to decrease even more in 2005.

While some of the larger companies like General Mills and Coca Cola will change their strategies and products, many of the smaller businesses focusing on these products will either continue to lose profit or be forced to close their doors.

Latoya Washington from the college of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), said, “I believe that people are realizing that these types of diets, especially low-carb, are too repetitive and present too many health risks for long-term use. I tried the Atkins Diet for 4 weeks last year and was very successful until I left for vacation and went carb crazy. Needless to say, as a result, this diet did not work for me, and I now realize that without a long-term commitment to these diets they will be ineffective.”

For some of you this has been great news, but for others it might not be so great. If you are one that lost weight on a low-carb diet, it looks as if you succeeded, but for most people that’s not the case.

It’s important to know that these diets might be harmful to your health, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies and heart stress from high cholesterol and fat intake.

But by becoming familiar with the food guide pyramid and recommended daily intakes you will know what foods are proper in a healthy diet.

With these companies losing profit from the low-carb craze and consumers wasting money on them, it’s important to realize that quick methods aren’t the answer. Tune in next week on the absolute “only” way to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Judson T. Allen is a nutritionist at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. He can be reached at [email protected]