Friday, January 21, 2005

To all my pals in the carb army - word

You asked for it carb fans so here it is… my attack on all things Atkins.

About the man
Dr Atkins was a MD who specialised in cardiology, graduating in 1955, from Cornell University Medical School. He was known for suggesting to his patients a low-carb, high-fat/high-protein diet. Steering away from sugar-rich processed foods.

In 1972 he devised a diet plan, which he called the Dr Atkins Diet Revolution (classy), in which patients were to eat next to no carbohydrates and to focus on fats and proteins. The diet was not widely embraced until Dr Atkins re-released his book (now entitled Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution – see what he’s done with the “new” there. Eh? Eh?) in the 1990’s.

As we are all aware this has been a disaster for carb lovers everywhere.

How the diet works
The diet has 4 phases.

NB: The diet is not a quick fix diet. The patient is meant to change eating patterns for life.

Phase 1: The Induction
This is the most rigorous part of the diet. You are required to eat no more than 20g of carbs per day for 2 weeks. In terms of what that is to eat its equivalent to 100g of banana or 175g of apple or 50g of white bread (if you want to check out what your lunch contained try this out).

Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss
This section of the diet is long and I would imagine as much fun as watching an Anti-Atkins kid eat a big baked potato, then some Californian rolls, then a few slices of vegemite on white bread… mmmmm.

The perk though is you are allowed to add 5g (yep, a whoopin’ 5g) to your daily intake of carbs per week.

You must do this for as long as it takes until you obtain ‘weight maintenance’ i.e. until you are no longer loosing weight, but aren’t gaining weight. This may take months.

Phase 3: Pre-Maintenance
You may now step up your intake to 10g per week (keep in mind this a little less than a slice of white bread). You do this until you start to put on weight.

Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance
The sound of this frightens me a little. Lifetime? I find it hard to commit to plans on a weekend.

I digress.

So, you are now an Atkins and your reward is to still eat little to no carbs for life (perhaps our judicial system could use the Atkins diet for convicted criminals instead of lumping them in jail. I know I’d stop dreaming of getting rid of certain world leaders if I was threatened to life Atkins), on a positive note you are now allowed to choose from a wider variety of foods that contain carbs. These include fruits, vegetables and legumes. Wow, the variety. Cool.

So what can I eat?

How about a Hamburger without the bun

Or a protein shake made with powder and water (no milk allowed)
Mmm… Mark Ritter loves a good protein shake.

This is a normal, healthy person’s diet pyramid:

This is an Atkins diet pyramid:

i.e. no milk, fruits, grains, cereals, or high glycemic vegies (potatoes, peas, corn and carrots). Slab of meat anyone?

Do I need to say more? Oh, wait, how ‘bout it’s fucked.

How you loose weight

This bit make get a little nerdy and technical, but I’ll try and make it amusing… so stick with me.


Things to remember: Number 1 - Carbs
Carbs are complex sugars (lots of sugar molecules attached together or polysaccharides). Our body uses simple sugars (single sugars or monosaccharides), they're small and easy to move around in the blood stream. The nerves and brain get them first because they’re number 1.

Things to remember: Number 2 - Liver
You know how we all make jokes about damaging our liver with copious amounts of alcohol. Ha ha ha. Well, it’s actually quite serious. The liver is a hard worker. Doesn’t quite have the same romantic air to it as other offaly bits (“from the bottom of my liver” doesn’t quite have the same ring does it?), but dang, she works hard.

In our adventure the liver is integral.

The liver is responsible for releasing the right amount of glucose (one of those simple sugars) into the blood (well, sure, the pancreas plays a part too... as do various hormones, but you get my drift). When you eat carbs the liver is the one that breaks it down into simple sugars and releases into the blood if we are in need of glucose OR will build it back together into glucose powerhouses called glycogen and store it in the liver. If there’s enough glycogen in the liver, it will be then converted into fat and stored around the body as adipose tissue (fat and cellulite – a girl’s 2 favourite things).

Things to remember: Number 3 – When there’s no glucose
The body is a very resilient machine. We have to cope with ridiculous amounts of alcohol, drugs, loud music and doughnuts we pump into it. It has back up plans for everything.

So when there’s no glucose the body has a couple of cards to pull out.

1. Break down fats into fatty acids and glycerol. Muscle tissue can use the fatty acids for ‘food’ leaving the nerve and brain cells to use the glucose.

2. Gluconeogenesis (which means making ‘new’ glucose). This is where proteins are broken down into amino acids and then converted into glucose (plus a few bi-products which I will discuss later).

Carbs, proteins and fats are all energy sources, but keep in mind that the carbs rule and the brain is picky about using something else.

Eventually though on the Atkins diet you will run out of glucose. So what does that clever liver do? It makes ketone bodies. (This one’s for you honey).

Things to remember: Number 4 – Ketone Bodies (KB)
KB’s are made through lipolysis (lipo = lipids = fats; lysis = break down or death). A message that there is no glucose hits the liver and it starts the process the fats. This is fine for weight loss. Not so great for the brain and nerve cells.

An abundance of KB’s can result Ketosis. Ketones are acidic. As the KB’s are floating around in the blood stream the blood also becomes acidic. This can result in giving the breath a sickly, fruity odour like nail-varnish remover or pear-drops. And can lead to Ketoacidosis (high levels of ketones with acidity) which causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion, and, if not rapidly treated, coma and death.

Think about it like this. If you want your car to perform to it’s very best you put optimax in it. You don’t siphon scungy fuel from the bomb that’s been parked on the side of the road for 6 months. Your brain and nerves deserve the good stuff. If they’ve got siphoned fuel kicking them into gear you’re going to get woozy, foggy and a little slow.

The weight loss

Yes there is weight loss. This would never have become popular otherwise. There are also studies that back up the fact that there is weight loss.

An article published in New England Journal of Medicine in May 2003 revealed that between 3-6 months the weight loss of the low-carb diet, compared to that of a low-fat diet was significantly different. However, media types tend to overlook the fact that at the end of the trail (12 months) there was no significant difference between the two groups. Plus 40% of the patients dropped out of the trail because the diets were too strict.

Another article published in Journal of Clinical Endocrinol Metabolism (April 2003) supports the fact that the initial weight loss was greater. However also states that patients regained a third of their initial weight loss.

Now if we flash back to Things to remember: Number 3 – When there’s no glucose. You’ll remember that when fats are broken down into KB’s there are bi-products that are in amino acids, but do not make up glucose. The one we will focus on is Nitrogen (N).

The body does not like N, just hangin around. In fact N is asked to leave the body ASAP. It’s filtered in the liver and kidney’s and combined with other bits to form urea. The body then gets rid of it in, you guessed it, urine.

The more N you have the more urea you have, the more you excrete, the more water you’re loosing (because you don’t just squirt out urea – that’d be gross). Have we caught on yet? YOU’RE LOOSING WATER. A lot of water. The female body is around 75% water. There’s a lot to loose. You loose water and you loose weight! Ha, magic. You also get dehydrated, headaches, nausea, blah, blah, blah.

Not only that but your liver and kidneys are working overtime with no extra pay (remember they’re feeding off the siphoned fuel too). They start to go on strike.

BTW... This is pure speculation at this point people, studies have not been carried out long enough for any conclusive evidence on the way an Atkins diet affects the liver and kidney’s. However there is a link of people that have been on the Atkins diet reporting liver and kidney problems. Whether you think this is coincidence it totally up to you (it’s not though you know).

Other possible health problems speculated to be connected with the Atkins diet are Kidney stones, heart problems and gastrointestinal problems (ulcers, diarrhoea and kidney infections).

Interestingly Dr. Robert Atkins, who followed the diet, had heart problems in his later life. There were also claims of Dr. Atkins being overweight at his time of death. His heart did not lead to his demise on this plane though. He slipped on a patch of ice and died from head trauma. His wife fervently denies he was overweight and that his heart problems were a result of a virus.

Look at this though and tell me he looks like a picture of health?

So ask yourself do you want to be one of those people that go out to restaurants and diliberates idiodically at the menu, forever whinging at the lack of low-carb options there are? Of course you don't you want to be able to eat whatever you like whenever you like.

I'll let you in on some food knowledge. There is a secret to weight loss. Yep. Your intake has to be less than your output. You need to eat a balanced diet and exercise. That's it. And it's doable. So fuck off with your slim fast diets and be sensible about your body and the way you treat it. Because after all even if you diet all your life you still may slip on some ice and die from head injuries AND be hungry - i'm just not willing to take that risk.


Blogger fluffy said...

sugar - you rock. and it WAS interesting. I'm not a fan of diets as they've enslaved my mother for 30 years and counting. she's tried atkins too... of course she lost a stone but she said she felt so weak she could barely walk. if i could only get her to stop cutting the diets out of who magazine i'd consider it a victory.

re: livers... someone told me once that if we could get a factory to so the same amount of work as a single human liver, the factory would be the size of melbourne (we're talking extended metro area). i think that's a pretty strange thing to have sat down and worked out. Next time I'm eating livers I'll chew more thoughtfully.

10:22 pm  
Blogger Pooh Bear! said...

OH MY GOD, you are so interesting. You are so right too!! I looked at the Atkins diet once and thought NO WAY!, cos why would you want to starve. I lost 28 kilos by good old fashioned exercise and eating properly, as well as cooking properly. That was 8 years ago and I have kept it off by walking every day(MOST). I drink 2 litres of water a day AND I FEEL GREAT!! Cheers :)

10:18 pm  
Blogger la nadine said...

i officially appoint you as the carb army's PR manager.

let's have a carb-only menu at our wedding.

10:51 pm  
Blogger Lee Lee said...

I did Atkin’s for a couple of months a few years back for an acting job. I was grumpy all the time, dreaming about bread rolls, had difficulty with *ahem* eliminations and had THE WORST BREATHE EVER. Sure, I was a svelte size 10 but felt about as sexy as one would on their death bed. It SUCKED!

You remain my hero Sugar Babe.

9:02 am  
Blogger sugar and spice said...

hi team.

blogger forgot to publish some of my post. there was a chunk missing from the ketone's section.

i've stuck it back in though. phew.

note to self: draft your work.

10:16 am  
Blogger Dr Henrik Ziegler said...


A fantastic reference for those of us who 'knew' the Atkins diet was a fucking crock anyway, but needed some evidence to back up discussions like this (with my housemate):

"How many potatoes do you want?"
"None, man, no carbs after lunch."
"That's actually quite bad for you."
"There's a link between the whole atkins no-carb diet thing and heart, liver, kidney and digestive problems... I think."

Now I can give an extended rant on Gluconeogenesis (although the very word springs to mind images of Japanese animation; giant robots, cities exploding and such, but I digress..) and make the man eat potatoes (he's irish, for fuck's sake, he's insulting his ancestors).

As well, these silly "no carbs" demands from my housemate come from a man who drinks about enough to kill a bear (well, I give it a good lashing, too, but at least I have a little bit of respect for my liver, and eat properly). It's like people eating five hamburgers.. and a Diet Coke.

On the infomercial before-after success story front, at one stage I weighed 110kg. Now I vary between 75 and 78. How? Simple. Stopped eating crap, started eating properly, started walking/riding a bike everywhere. All of a sudden intake < output, and things started to tighten themselves up.

The 'diet' industry needs less Atkins and more people like you. Vive l'armée des hydrates de carbone.

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