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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September 2003, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Three million follow Atkins diet
Man on scales
The diet is extremely popular
An estimated three million people in the UK have tried the controversial Atkins Diet, suggests a poll.

The diet, which is based around a low intake of carbohydrates and an increase intake of protein, has been criticised by dieticians.

They believe it may be unsafe - although damning medical evidence has yet to emerge.

However, the poll, conducted on behalf of ITV, found that 7% of men and 10% of women had given it a try.

There has been no research into the long-term effects of following the Atkins Diet - and evidence is scarce about the long-term impact of low carbohydrate diets in general.

The company that promotes the diet insists that it is healthy provided the diet instructions are followed properly.

Many scientists and nutritionists, however, say that, if used long-term, its higher fat content could lead to kidney problems - and some have even suggested that it could increase the risk of bowel cancer.

No impact

The poll found that only one in a hundred of those actually using the Atkins diet were convinced by such warnings.

Half say that more research is needed into the long-term medical effects of following it.

Peter Kellner, the chairman of YouGov, which carried out the poll, said: "The public's experience is that Atkins is more effective than conventional diets in helping people to lose weight but causes more side-effects."

Nutritionists say that the best way to lose weight is by a combination of a calorie controlled diet which contains a balance of all the major food groups, and regular exercise.

Approximately two-fifths of the population are currently dieting in some form or other - 58% have tried to diet in the past five years, according to the poll.

Nevertheless, there is a burgeoning problem with obesity, both in the UK and the US, where the Atkins diet is extremely popular.

Obesity significantly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, and a host of other medical problems.

Your comments - and lunches (where applicable)

Isn't it interesting that we have an obesity problem in the countries that have promoted low fat - high carbohydrate diets for the last 30 years. Whereas in previous times when carbohydrate was consumed less we had less overweight people? Too much sugar that's the problem.
Mark, UK (Stilton Ploughmans)

As one who grew up as a slim child on red meat, full-fat milk and weekend fry-ups, my weight only started to increase when I switched to a high-carbo diet of rice and pasta when I moved into my own home. Since then it has yo-yo'd time and again on low-fat regimes and I've always been hungry. The Atkins plan allows me to eat what I ate as a child ... a slim, healthy, energetic child ... and so far I've dropped 6 pounds without any cravings.
Sue, UK (Tuna salad with mayonnaise and black pepper)

There are several reasons why I ignore the scare stories apart from the weight loss and sense of well being. It's a proven fact that obesity is bad for you. It's obvious that a lot of critics haven't actually read the books. They concentrate on the induction period and high fat. A lot of the critics have a lot to lose - dieticians, food manufacturers and shops would have to change.

I wonder in the future if people will sue their doctors for recommending a low fat high carbo diet.
Meg, UK (Mushroom omelette with salad)

As a bodybuilder I'm not a big fan of the Atkins diet. Carbs are too important to miss out. We live in a world that wants instant results without effort. This needs to change. you won't loose bodyfat over night, it just takes a bit of effort that's all. If you have a calorie controlled diet with a good exercise plan, you will loose bodyfat and feel healthier.
Ahmed, UK(Pasta)

It's a great way of eating, I am not calling it a diet as I see a diet as a cut-down in food that you eat and Atkins is NOT that. I am eating more veg than I have ever eaten. I have cut my caffeine intake completely down (i now have decaf). As for the unhealthy aspect, I have researched the Atkins, by visiting sites and reading of the stories of people doing the "diet", and all i see are success stories.

I have a degree in Biology and its quite interesting how the body adapts to this way of eating, and i can see it in myself, i don't feel as if my kidneys are overloaded, i don't feel bloated, i drink 5 litres of water a day, my bowels are healthier than ever before. I feel fitter and more alert than i have ever done on a low fat diet.
Joanne Belson, England (Large salad with mayo, ham and cheese)

I am currently doing the Atkins diet - and have found it quite enjoyable. The lack of fruit and vegetables concerns me, although this strict limitation only lasts two weeks if you follow the diet properly. The main principles of the diet seem sensible, it emphasises the importance of eating natural, unprocessed foods which must be a good thing. We seem to be obsessed with eating low fat foods which are often highly processed, and which invariably contain loads of rubbish.
Shella Smith, England

I have been following a low-carbohydrate diet for the past year. It is in no way dramatic as it has taken me this long to lose 2.5st. As for health impact, personally there have been no indications of kidney problems (urine tested regularly), my cholesterol is 3.6 (doctors measurement) and I feel fitter and less lethargic than ever. When news stories say that there is no long term research to base conclusions upon I am very surprised. The Atkins diet in particular has been in existence for 30 years - is that not long term enough? Surely the original dieters could be contacted and asked whether they would be willing to take part in a study on long term effect?
Catriona Shields, Scotland

20lbs gone so far, and I feel great!
Steven , UK (Lettuce, peppers, cheese, onions and two pork sausages)

I am really not sure of the wisdom of following the Atkins diet. All too often people are looking for quick fixes, and following a high protein diet seems to offer that - quick weight loss. But what is that weight loss - it is initially water, muscle and some fat. This with little knowledge of the long term damage one maybe doing to their bodies. And what happens when you finish the Atkins diet - the water weight comes straight back on, but with less muscle!! In order to tackle obesity and weight concern, I believe it is far more effective to follow a healthy balanced low fat diet all of the time. This coupled with frequent exercise cannot be beaten. It is what has been promoted for centuries and is known to be safe. The underlying, undisputed fact of losing weight is to expend more calories than you consume.
Simon, UK (Peanut Butter on Toast, Banana and 3 tangerines)

I have happily lost 3 stone since last November on the Atkins plan, with very few side effects. Most people who follow the Atkins plan as written in the book actually eat more veggies than they did prePlan! 3 "cups" of veggies a day is a fare amount and hey its much better than 3 cups of chips with my steak which many people eat every single day! Talk to people who have really done the plan and actually read what you are supposed to eat and drink.....I eat 3 good meals a day and a few snacks, Far better than the "2 shakes and a proper dinner" that Slimfast recommends! and if the women in my office are anything to go by far more successful!
Wanda Armstrong-Bridges, UK (Home made Cheese Quiche with Mixed Salad)

I have been on the diet for 18 months. I reached my ideal weight after 6 months (for the first time in my life). The diet did everything it said it would and I can't praise it enough. The only downside is all the rubbish, misinformation, scare stories and downright lies that keeps being published about it by 'experts' with hidden agendas...
Steven, uk (Pork, tomatoes, nuts, raspberries)

After a long battle with a weight problem I decided to try the Atkins diet as it seemed an easy and successful way to loose weight. However it could not have been a worse choice for me. I lost virtually no weight, was terribly lethargic, suffered from quite bad headaches and on top of all that it gave me bad breath, thus my husband persuaded me to finally stop the diet and try something else. I have now switched to the Slim Fast diet and it seems to work for me as it is easy to stick to and does not have the side effects i suffered with Atkins. I also feel much healthier in myself, unlike when on Atkins and what with all the health risks which seem connected with it now I am glad I came to my senses and stopped.
Louise Armstrong, England

I have lost just over a stone on the Atkins in the past and think it is an excellent diet. Critics are focusing too much on the high fat content - you do not have to eat lots of fat to lose the weight. Its just the low-fat food industry spreading the doubts because they know they have competition. The Atkins plan aims to introduce increased carbs over a period of time to what suits you (ie at what level of carb intake will make you gain weight again). They promote health and exercise too.
Hayley Granger, UK (Chicken tikka pieces, salad and Garlic Mayo dip)

I'd hardly say what I am having for lunch is "unhealthy". I think it's also worth noting that some of the nutritional experts who have issued warnings about low carb diets are also employed as "independent" advisors to other brands in the slimming industry.
Alison, UK (Chicken breast, some cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, handful of nuts)

I am eating much more veg and fruit since moving onto the Atkins regime. Most of the comments about the diet seem only to relate to the initial 2 week intensive almost no carb regime, which is difficult and not a good diet to follow long term. However it gives an initial weight loss of 7 - 14 pounds and introduces the principles. Once maintenance rather than weight loss is required, the Atkins regime/diet can be really healthy. It's been great for me, and has also cured my episodes of low blood sugar.
Liz Beth, England (Melon and tomato salad with green leaves; 3 ham slices, grated cheese and 2 ryvitas with lentil pate)

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