The Atkins diet hit the diet scene in 1972 when Dr. Atkins published his book, “Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution”. And the Atkins diet was really revolutionary. Most diets of the day focused on counting calories and maintaining a low fat diet. Calories were felt to be the enemy and the fewer you ate, the better off you were. Dr. Atkins paid less attention to calories in his diet and more to reducing the number of carbohydrates in the diet. To followers of his diet, the carbohydrates were the problem. The diet promoted the use of lots of protein and a moderate amount of fat with the idea that your metabolism will cause you to lose weight on this diet.
The Atkins diet was not taken very well by many nutritionists who were promoting diets low in fat and protein. This was about the time that the four food groups turned into the food pyramid. Fruits, vegetables and grains were near the bottom and should be consumed the most. Unfortunately for the Atkins diet, these were things that were to be avoided on the diet. Near the top of the food pyramid are fats and meat proteins. We weren’t supposed to eat many of these types of foods on a healthy diet and yet they were prominent in the Atkins diet.
The Atkins diet included menu plans high in bacon, fried meat and even fried pork rinds. While there were some salad greens on the diet plan, you were allowed to add fatty dressing to the diet plan. The Atkins diet plan really promoted eggs, cheese, meats at every meal and, in some cases, protein bars or protein drinks. This was a time when cholesterol and triglycerides were being better understood and their role in heart disease was made more clear. Experts felt that the Atkins diet plan was too high in cholesterol and other fats, making one’s risk for heart disease greater. Dr. Atkins continued to promote his diet plan, amid a great deal of controversy.
The Atkins diet also included some Atkins products, like Atkins hot cereal, Atkins protein shakes and Atkins protein bars. Instead of having regular hot cereal, you would choose the Atkins variety of hot cereal. The company made money off of these specialized products and still does, but to a lesser degree. As long as carbohydrates were counted and Atkins products used, the diet was expected to help you lose weight.
It’s unclear how successful people were in losing weight on the Atkins diet. If dieting is truly based on calories, the Atkins diet certainly weren’t lacking in them. Since the origin of the Atkins diet, more is known about the effects of cholesterol (from meat protein) and triglycerides (from other fats) on things like stroke, peripheral artery disease and heart disease (coronary artery disease). Doctors are more likely to check cholesterol and triglycerides in patients and doctors are active in putting people on medications to lower these fats in the blood. Few doctors would recommend such a high content of cholesterol and fat for patients at risk for heart disease. Few would recommend this kind of diet for even normal people. Still, there are those who still go on the Atkins diet in the hopes of losing weight.