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The Atkins Diet for Type 2 Diabetes

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Updated April 09, 2014

The latest book in the Atkins series is the Atkins Diabetes Revolution, based on the practice of Robert C. Atkins, with colleagues Mary C. Vernon and Jacqueline A Eberstein. The book offers a comprehensive program that includes diet, exercise, and nutrient supplementation.

Who is this diet for?
There is no one diet that is right for everyone. The Atkins diet is best suited for people who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or who are overweight and at risk for developing this disease.

How to tell if you may have a blood sugar problem:
  • You feel hungry in between meals
  • You crave sweets and/or starchy foods
  • You feel thirsty all the time
  • You urinate frequently
  • You wake with a headache
  • You feel irritable before meals or when hungry
  • You feel shaky when you are hungry
  • You're constantly tired
  • You feel sleepy in the daytime
  • You are sleepy after meals
  • You have difficulty concentrating
What are the risk factors for diabetes?
  • Overweight
  • Excess fat around the abdomen
  • Inactive
  • Increased triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and/or fasting blood sugar
What are the warning signs of diabetes?
  • Extreme thirst or hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unusually tired
  • Blurry vision
  • Irritability
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Cuts and bruises heal slowly
  • Frequent skin, gum, or bladder infections
That said, most people, diabetic or not, will benefit from restricting their intake of refined sugar and some grains.

What are the guidelines of the diet?
The Atkins Diabetes Revolution has meal plans at three different levels of carb intake, starting at 20 grams per day and building to 40 and 60 grams per day. The authors of the book encourage readers to individualize their meal plans.

The book makes additional recommendations:
  • No limitation on protein and fat
  • Low-fat dairy products are not recommended, because the authors state they are often higher in carbs
  • No more than 4 ounces of cheese per day
What are the benefits of this diet?
Dr. Atkins was instrumental in popularizing the the connection between obesity and insulin. The mainstream medical treatment for diabetes was prescription drugs and a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar. Thanks to the work of Dr. Atkins, many people know that restricting carbohydrates, particularly refined sugar and grains, is the key to preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.

While the diet starts at a low daily carbohydrate intake of 20 grams per day and is higher in fat than some of the other diets, it has helped many people who are overweight, addicted to sweets, and literally have no time to cook lose weight relatively quickly, decreasing their risk factors for diabetes. There is controversy over whether the Atkins Diet is suitable as a long-term approach (see below).

The 60 gram per day menus in the book have a fruit and vegetable intake that comes closer to what is desired on a long-term plan.

The recipes look very good, and most require only 15 to 20 minutes to prepare. Recipes in the book include:
  • Salmon En Papillote with Tomato-Basil Relish
  • Grilled Chicken and Avocado Salad with Sweet MUstard Vinaigrette and Olives
  • Mexican Chicken Soup
    Pork Tenderloin with Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
What do the critics say?
  • Critics of the Atkins diet say that the diet recommends eating excessive amounts of animal protein and fat. High protein causes people to eliminate a lot of water weight.
  • Critics also say that a very high protein diet can strain the kidneys and liver, creating ketones. Although ketones suppress appetite, they can cause dizziness, bad breath, and gas. Ketones are also thought to contribute to gout, heart disease, and kidney disease. People with diabetes are more likely to develop kidney disease than the general population.
  • Another concern is that the diet labels all carbohydrates as bad, even though vegetable carbohydrates promote health.
  • Low carbohydrate, high protein diets deplete glycogen stores. Glycogen is a form of carbohydrate, stored in the liver and muscle, that is a primary fuel source for exercise. Even though many low carbohydrate diets recommend a complete exercise program, the diet makes it harder for people to exercise effectively.
How can I learn more about this diet?
Read an excerpt from Atkins Diabetes Revolution. More information about the Atkins diet can be found at atkins.com.

Reference
Atkins, Robert C., Vernon, Mary C., Eberstein, Jacqueline A. Atkins Diabetes Revolution : The groundbreaking approach to preventing and controlling Type 2 diabetes. New York : William Morrow, 2004.

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