Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Is the Atkins diet dangerous?"

ZocdocAnswersIs the Atkins diet dangerous?


I'm 40 and it looks good to me but some say it's dangerous. Where's the danger?


The Atkins diet recommends cutting out carbohydrates entirely for a few weeks, then slowly adding them back in and ramping up to a low level (approximately 20%) of carbohydrates in your diet. This first few weeks causes your body to go into something called "ketosis" where you stop using glucose and glycogen for energy, and your body shifts to using ketones (an acidic substance derived from fat breakdown) for energy. While this promotes the breakdown of fat, your muscles, heart and brain are not accustomed to exclusively using ketones for energy, and these first few weeks can cause many symptoms: headaches, dizziness, nausea, dehydration, fatigue. To a healthy young person, this is not dangerous, however, patients with other diseases may have some problems with going into ketosis because their bodies become quite dehydrated and acidemic (acidic blood). This can cause arrhythmia, fainting, kidney problems, loss of memory, etc. Ultimately losing weight comes down to a balance of calories consumed versus calories burned in exercise. Increasing your exercise duration, frequency and intensity can help you to lose weight more rapidly. As far as decreasing calories, cutting down on portion sizes and meal frequency can help. If you find that your current diet is very heavy in carbs, restricting them may be helpful to achieve this, however, diets that are not quite as carb restrictive as Atkins are often easier to stick to. Consider the Zone or South Beach diet. Please see a dietician or nutritionist to help start the safest and most effective weight loss regimen and diet.

Need more info?

See a dietitian today

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.