THE high protein, low-carbohydrate program for millions, the Atkins diet plan (or Aitken's diet as is sometimes reported) is probably the most famous weight loss program in the world. Why not read our review of this plan.
Still highly controversial, at the peak of its popularity it was estimated that over three million slimmers in the UK had tried it. The theory behind the Atkins Diet plan philosophy is quite straightforward.
When the intake of carbohydrate foods - such as potatoes, pasta and bread - is drastically reduced, the body is forced to find an alternative source of energy and supporters argue that the only place to go is the fat that has already been stored.
There are four phases to the Atkins diet:
Induction is the toughest and lasts for a minimum of two weeks (when weight loss should be around the 6-10lb range). It involves reducing carbohydrate foods to less than 10% of the average amount eaten (that's just 20g a day). Not only are high carb foods banned so are milk, fruit and most vegetables. However, red meat, chicken, fish, cheese, eggs, mayo, cream and butter can be eaten in unlimited quantities.
In phase two the carb intake is slowly increased to a level that still allows weight loss of between 1 and 3lb a week. Realistically for most people this means bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and breakfast cereals are still off the menu. Once within 5-10lb of the target weight, phase three kicks in when more carbohydrates are eaten and weight loss slows down to 1lb a week. The final phase is weight maintenance, which, as the name suggests, aims to keep off the weight that has already been lost while eating a wider range of foods.
Bad breath is probably the best-known unwanted side effect, especially in the early phases, but some slimmers have also experienced fatigue, insomnia and nausea. Constipation may also occur because of the lack of high-fibre foods such as fruit, vegetables and wholewheat products. Some health experts are worried that long term the unbalanced nature of the nutrition will increase the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and other serious conditions.