Authors of New Atkins Book Hope to Revive Diet

Photo: One of the worlds most famous diets may be returning to favor, as a new book updates its guidelines to make it more workable.

One of the world's most famous diets is getting a tummy tuck with new guidelines to make the weight-loss program more workable.

The Atkins -- popularly known as a low-carbohydrate diet that accommodates a deluxe cheeseburger as long as it is served without the bun and fries -- is revamped in "The New Atkins For a New You."

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The book, developed by Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., recycles some of the advice in what has become a diet industry first kicked off by 1972's "Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution" by Dr. Robert Atkins, who died in 2003.

But the new volume includes more emphasis on getting carbohydrates from vegetables, coping with some of the initial travails of beginning the diet, and tips for keeping on the diet when traveling.

The authors also break the diet into four phases with different eating patterns, an effort to help overcome the difficulty most dieters face when trying to stay on one eating plan for over the long haul.

"You should not be bored on Atkins. That just means you're not being very creative," Dr. Eric Westman, director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic and one of the book's authors, told

Westman said that while many have focused on the low levels of carbohydrates allowed on the Atkins diet (20 grams, or roughly one and a third slices of bread) that is actually just for the first phase of the diet, which lasts for about two weeks and is not necessary for everyone, depending on metabolism.

While people on the diet often feel fatigued or get a headache during that period, he said they are now encouraged to counter that with extra salt, acknowledging that this advice may go against some current recommendations.

While people with a heart condition must be aware of their salt intake, said Westman, "For the vast majority of people, you don't have to limit that salt anymore."

The extra salt recommendation is due to concern over what lower levels of carbohydrates might do to the body.

"If you lower the insulin in the blood enough, then your kidneys don't retain the sodium that you're used to," said Westman.

"Friendlier" Atkins May Not Be a Better One

But the new diet is being met with skepticism by some experts.

"I call it a kinder, gentler Atkins," said Keith-Thomas Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "I'm not saying the diet wouldn't help somebody lose weight, but I try to go for the long term and...[Atkins] isn't a diet I would recommend somebody stay on."

One problem Ayoob cited was that even in later phases of the diet, the 120-gram daily maximum of carbohydrates only meets the minimum recommended dietary standard of the Institute of Medicine.

Ayoob also pointed out the diet's cost and wastefulness, such as one of the book's recipes that calls for making chicken broth using a whole chicken for flavoring and then discarding the meat.

The new Atkins also calls for nutritional supplements, as a signal of the diet's potential shortcomings, he said. "The diet requires a number of supplements. Why? Because the diet isn't adequate," he said.

Atkins has been popular because it allows people to eat many of the high-fat foods they crave, Ayoob added, but a good long-term diet should put more emphasis on eating whole grains and less fat.

"It's very seductive…especially to a lot of people trying to lose weight," he said of the Atkins. "It's also a big business; it's a brand."

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