The Low-Carb, High-Protein Diet: Is it Worth the Risk?

It began in the United States in the 1990s with the re-emergence of the Atkins Low-Carb High-Protein Diet by way his new best-selling book. Although Atkins had introduced his weight loss concept in 1972, the popularity of his concept didn’t hit its peak until the last decade of the 20th century and the first few years following 2000.  During its height, the Atkins Diet craze spread to other countries and variations on the theme such as the Zone Diet and the South Beach Diet began to share the limelight.

The Atkins Diet Basics

* The Atkins Diet * strictly forbids fruit, pasta, breads and grains.  Butter, olive oil and mayonnaise, which he considered as natural fats, are encouraged.  The diet proposes those following it to eat all the meat and eggs possible, but hold the gravy.  Caffeine is disallowed because it is said to cause food cravings.

Not only does the Atkins Diet recommend eating more protein in place of carbohydrates, it also directs dieters to eat less vegetables and fruits.  Apparently, though, Dr. Atkins approved of berries and they were incorporated into his weight loss plan.

Does the Zone Diet Put You in the Right Zone?

This low-carb and high-protein spin off was created by *Dr. Barry Sears*All three meals and snacks – of which you get two a day – should conform to this ratio:  40% protein, 30% fat and 30% carbohydrate.  The latter category is made up of oatmeal, barley, fruit and vegetables that are considered non-starchy. Dieters are urged to steer clear of white bread, dry cereal, pasta and sweets.

South Beach Diet Explained

When cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston created the *South Beach Diet*, another low-carbohydrate, high-protein approach, he borrowed heavily frome the glycemic index which ranks  foods by how much carbohydrate they contain. This diet plan is comprised of different phases with different food requirements in each.  

Overall, though, poultry, fish and lean meat are recommended as long they are low in saturated fat and not breaded.  Among the low-carb veggies on the list are bok choy, spinach, chard, cabbage, asparagus, avocado, peppers and radishes. Caffeine intake should be limited to one or two cups of coffee or tea a day, and only sugar-free sweets are allowed.  Legumes and beans are encouraged, but no fruit should be eaten in the first phase.

What the Experts Say

Although low-carb, high-protein diets have been recognized by some governmental health organizations as a valid diet plan that does produce weight loss over the course of one year, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, others have united in their concerns about the saturated and trans fats.  The American Heart Association, The Australian Heart Foundation, Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Academy have not endorsed any low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet.

Instead, each has issued statements of concern about a diet so highly reliant on animal protein.  The animal fat inherent in these fad diets are known to increase the risk of coronary artery disease, hence negating any positive heart attack prevention steps the dieter may have taken in the past.

An online article written by *Jenny Hope*  of the Daily Mail * and reprinted on the website Atkins Exposedquoted Dr. Susan Jebb of the Medical Research Council as warning against long-term use of the Atkins Diet.  Many medical experts agree that crash diets of any kind pose a danger to the dieters.


A Return to Sanity and Nutrition

** Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a physician and strong advocate of natural weight loss through proper nutrition, appeared on public television in June 2011 to discuss his views and his own food pyramid.  Dr. Fuhrman says that the main problem with all of the low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets is that they do not meet the body’s nutritional needs.  Included on Dr. Fuhrman’s site is a comparison of his diet plan, which focuses on large amounts of vegetables and fruits, to  the South Beach, Weight Watchers and the Atkins Diet.  His concern about the saturated fats is that they are carcinogenic.

Dr. Fuhrman’s 5-Tier Food Pyramid

  1. At the foundation of the pyramid are vegetables, which he says should comprise 30% to 60% of your calories.  Of these half should be cooked and half should be raw. 
  2. The second tier is divided into fruits (10% to 40%) and beans and legumes (also 10% to 40%).
  3. Proceeding to the next level, he recommends that seeds, nuts and avocados make up 10% to 40% of your caloric intake and that whole grains and potatoes account for 20% of the calories. 
  4. Eggs, fish and fat-free dairy should make up less than 10% of the total calories.  At the very top of the Fuhrman pyramid are foods he says should be eaten rarely at best: beef, sweets, cheese and processed foods.
  5. Dr. Fuhrman’s diet method is consistent with using your high performance blender to create raw smoothies. Use soymilk or almond milk in your smoothies instead of dairy milk.


Before starting any diet, it is a good idea to gather as much information as possible about the health benefits pro and con.  Also, let your doctor know you are considering a dietary change and find out what he or she recommends as your best approach to weight loss.


  • The Atkins Diet -
  • Dr Barry Sears -
  • Dr Arthur Agatston - South Beach Diet -
  • Jenny Hope - Daily Mail -
  • Dr Joel Fuhrman -

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