The Atkins Diet is attractive to dieters who have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight on low-fat, low-calorie diets. Atkins dieters can eat as many calories as desired from protein and fat, as long ascarbohydrate consumption is restricted. Consequently, many Atkins dieters are spared the feelingsof hunger and deprivation that accompany other weight loss regimens. The underlying premise of the Atkins Diet is that diets high in sugar and refined carbohydratescause weight gain, and ultimately lead to obesity. Such diets increase the production of insulin (ahormone secreted by the pancreas). When insulin levels are high, the food we eat is quickly andeasily converted into fat, and stored in our cells. By restricting the consumption of carbohydrates,the production of insulin is moderated. In addition, the lack of available carbohydrate (the body'spreferred fuel source) forces the body to burn stored fat as energy. What do the critics say? Many nutrition experts disagree with the basic premise of the Atkins Diet - the notion that high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets cause obesity. For evidence of the implausibility of the Atkins Diet,some nutritionists point out that the traditional Japanese diet is very high in carbohydrates, low inprotein, and very low in fat; however, before the introduction of high-fat and high-protein Westernfoods, being overweight was rare in Japan. Such findings make sense because ounce for ounce,carbohydrates contain far fewer calories than fats (4 calories from carbohydrates versus 9 caloriesfrom fat). These critics blame the over-consumption of calories (from any source) and lack ofphysical activity as the primary causes of obesity. One concern about a high-protein diet stems from all the saturated fats one eats - those fats thatwe're told cause high cholesterol, clogged arteries and, eventually, heart disease. Critics alsoexpress concern about the impact of the Atkins Diet on the overall health of the dieter. Dependingon the foods chosen by the dieter, the diet may contain a large amount of saturated fat and transfat, putting those at risk for heart disease in danger. Recent research has found that high-proteindiets speed up the progression of arteriosclerosis, the main cause of heart attacks. Moreover,contrary to Atkins' claims, extremely low-fat diets have been found to reverse heart disease. Inaddition, the lack of grains, fruits, and vegetables in the Atkins Diet may lead to deficiencies of keynutrients, including dietary fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, and several minerals. Finally, high proteindiets may increase the risk of osteoporosis and accelerate the rate of deterioration in kidneyfunction associated with aging. Critics concede that Atkins dieters often experience significant weight loss during the initial stagesof the diet. However, these critics argue that the diet has a diuretic effect and that the initial weightloss is due to water loss, not fat loss. Eventually the body restores its water and sodium balance,and the rate of weight loss declines. Critics also note that there is no evidence showing that theAtkins diet leads to greater weight loss than do other diets that provide more carbohydrates, yetthe same number of calories.Critics also note high-protein diets can lead to dangerous imbalances- bone loss and kidney problems - because too much protein can overwork the kidneys. Dr. Atkins was the first person who brought a low-carbohydrates diet to major prominence in theU.S. and I credit him for defying "the system" and offering a weight loss plan that works for somepeople. He presents scientific fact, but for the most part his recent book provides anecdotalinformation from many of his patients.