Tag Archives: Atkins

Has Low-Carb Eating Been Good for YOU?

Just add steamed broccoli and a spinach salad!

Just add steamed broccoli and a spinach salad!

Low-carb or carbohydrate-restricted eating has been very beneficial to many people with type 2 diabetes, judging by what I hear from my patients and read on the Internet.  By “beneficial,” I mean has this eating style helped you to control your glucose levels, lower your hemoglobin A1c, ameliorated complications, helped you lose weight,  energized you, or just plain made you feel better?

I would love to hear about your experiences with carb-restricted eating, both good and bad.  How much did you restrict your carb intake?  How did you go about it?  Did you go “full Atkins,” and restrict carbs to 20 or less grams a day?   Or were you more moderate, restricting carbs to 30% of total calories, as in The Zone Diet?  [The typical American diet derives 55-60% of all calories from carbohdrates.]  If you don’t care to share with the world, please send me an email to steveparkermd (at) gmail (dot) com.  I’ll keep all all personal responses to my email address private and confidential.


Steve Parker, M.D.


Filed under Carbohydrate

Book Review: Atkins Diabetes Revolution

I must give credit to Dr. Robert C. Atkins for popularizing an approach – carbohydrate restriction – that helps people with diabetes control their disease, and likely helps prevent type 2 diabetes in others.  Mary C. Vernon and Jacqueline Eberstein do a great job explaining his program in their 2004 book, Atkins Diabetes Revolution: The Groundbreaking Approach to Preventing and Controlling Type 2 Diabetes

On the Amazon.com five-star rating scale, I give this book four stars.

I can best summarize this book by noting that it is the standard Atkins diet with a few modifications: 1) special supplements  2) you add additional carbs to your diet more slowly  3) the warning that diabetics may well end up with a lower acceptable lifetime carbohydrate intake level.

By way of review, the Atkins diet is a very low-carb diet, particularly in the two-week induction phase.  “Very low-carb” means lots of meat, chicken, fish, eggs, limited cheese, and 2-3 cups daily of salad greens and low-carb veggies like onions, tomatoes, broccoli, and snow peas.  After induction phase, you slowly add back carbs on a weekly basis until weight loss stalls, then you cut back on carbs.

As an adult medicine specialist, I have no expertise in pediatrics.  I didn’t read the two chapters related to children.

The authors present “complimentary medicine”in a favorable light.  Unsuspecting readers need to know that much of complementary medicine is based on hearsay and anecdote, not science-based evidence.  In that same vein, the two chapters on supplements for diabetes and heart disease recommend a cocktail of supplements that I’m not convinced are needed.  I don’t know a single endocrinologist or cardiologist prescribing these concoctions.  Then again, I could be wrong.   

Vernon and Eberstein provide two excellent chapters on exercise.

A month of meal plans and recipes are provided for 20, 40, and 60-gram carbohydrate levels.  [The average American is eating 250-300 g of carbs daily.]  The recipes look quick and easy, but I didn’t prepare or taste any of them.

The 5-hour glucose and insulin tolerance test (GTT, paged 61) that Dr. Atkins reportedly ran on all patients who came to him is rarely done in other medical clinics.  This doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but certainly out of the mainstream.  The authors admit that at least a few people will have to count calories – specifically, limit total calories – if the basic program doesn’t control diabetes, prediabetes, and the metabolic syndrome.  Limiting portion size will speed weight loss, they write.

What we don’t know with certainty is, will long-term Atkins aficionados miss out on the health benefits of higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains?  Much of the scientific literature suggests, “Yes.”

What if we compare the long-term outlooks of a diabetic Atkins follower with a poorly controlled diabetic who’s 80 pounds overweight and eating a standard American diet?  The Atkins follower is quite likely to be healthier  and live longer.

Steve Parker, M.D.



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Filed under Book Reviews

Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet for Overweight Diabetic Men: A Pilot Study

A low-carb ketogenic diet in patients with type 2 diabetes was so effective that diabetes medications were reduced or discontinued in most patients, according to U.S. researchers.  The 2005 report recommends that similar dieters be under close medical supervision or capable of adjusting their own medication, because the diet lowers blood sugar  dramatically. 


Twenty-eight overweight people with type 2 diabetes were placed on the study diet and followed for 16 weeks.  Seven people dropped out, so the analysis involved 21, of which 20 were men—the study was done at a Veterans Administration clinic.  Thirteen were caucasian, eight were black.  Average age was 56; average body mass index was 42.  The seven dropouts were unable to come to the scheduled meetings or couldn’t follow the diet.  No dropout complained of adverse effects of the diet.


Participants were instructed on the Atkins Induction Phase diet, which daily includes:

  • under 20 g carbohydrate
  • one cup of low-carb vegetables
  • two cups of salad greens
  • four ounces of hard cheese
  • unlimited meat, poultry, fish, eggs, shellfish
  • a multivitamin

At the outset, diabetes medication dosages were reduced in this general fashion: insulin was halved, sulfonyureas were halved or discontinued.  If the participant were taking a diuretic (fluid pill), low doses were discontinued; high doses were halved.

Study subjects returned every two weeks for diet counseling and medication adjustment (based on twice daily glucose readings and episodes of hypoglycemia).  Food cravings and/or good progress on weight goals triggered a 5-gram (per day) weekly increase in carbohydrate allowance.  In other words, if a participant’s weight loss goal was 20 pounds and he’d already lost 10, he could increase his daily carbs during the next week from 20 to 25 g.  Carbs could be increased weekly by five gram increments as long as weight loss progressed.  [This is typical Atkins.]   Food records were analyzed periodically.   


  • hemoglobin A1c decreased from an average baseline of 7.5% down to 6.3% (a 1.2% absolute decrease and 16% relative drop)
  • the absolute hemoglobin A1c decrease was at least 1.0% in half of the participants
  • diabetic drugs were reduced in 10 patients, discontinued in seven, and unchanged in four
  • average body weight decreased by 6.6%, from 131 kg (288 lb) to 122 kg (268 lb)
  • triglycerides decreased 42%, while cholesterols (total, HDL, and LDL) didn’t change significantly
  • no change in blood pressures
  • average fasting glucose decreased by 17% (by week 16)
  • uric acid decreased by 10%
  • no serious adverse effects occurred
  • one hypoglycemic event involved EMS but was treated without transport
  • only 27 of 151 urine ketone measurements  were greater than trace

My Comments

The degree of improvement in hemoglobin A1c—our primary gauge of diabetes control—is equivalent to that seen with many diabetic medications.  I see many overweight diabetics on two or three drugs and a standard “diabetic diet,” and they’re still poorly controlled.  This diet could replace the expense and potential adverse effects of an additional drug.   

In August this year I blogged about a study comparing the Atkins diet with a traditional low-fat diet in overweight diabetic black women in the U.S.  As measured at three months, the Atkins diet proved superior for weight loss and glucose control.

This study at hand is small, but certainly points to the effectiveness of an Atkins-style very low-carb ketogenic diet in overweight men with type 2 diabetes.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Yancy, William, et al.  A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes [in men].  Nutrition and Metabolism, 2:34 (2005).   doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-2-34


Filed under Carbohydrate, ketogenic diet, Overweight and Obesity, Weight Loss