How popular is the Atkidn Diet outside the US?
March 17, 2004 8:42 PM   Subscribe

I have always kind of wondered how the Atkins Diet has been received in Europe as well as Canada and Latin America. Personally I have some problems with it (How much exercise can you accomplish if you aren't getting any carbs???) but i haven't read Atkins For Life (or whatever the book is called) yet and I don't think I'm going to. Anyway, Specifically, I was wondering how the nations of England, France and Canada react to it? Is it popular there or just laughed at?
posted by Slimemonster to Food & Drink (21 answers total)
It seems to get a lot of press. I glanced at an article today: there are 320,000 Atkins-followers in Canada, or one per cent. Talk of the diet seems to have exploded here in the last six months or so (adverts for low carb beers and low carb sandwiches) that I feel like yesterday's man for eating sandwiches made from whole grain bread.

There was an article in one of the University of Toronto student papers, citing a researcher who was calling Atkins a "fad diet" and calling for a more detailed examination of differences among carbohydrates and source, rather than a flat "carb is bad" mantra.

I only know one person who followed the diet rigorously and his goal was to lose a lot of weight: he followed this diet before it became so newsworthy, though, maybe a year or more ago. Another friend follows something that strikes me as a modified Atkins, declining to eat carbs and protein at the same sitting.
posted by philfromhavelock at 9:07 PM on March 17, 2004

Not that Australia was on your list of countries, but the Atkins diet has recently come under something of a cloud here.
posted by dg at 9:11 PM on March 17, 2004

Personally I have some problems with it... but i haven't read Atkins For Life... and I don't think I'm going to.

That's a good policy. /sarcasm

There are legitimate criticisms out there, but yours (How much exercise can you accomplish) is easily refuted by any number of the hundreds of thousands of exercisers out there currently on Atkins.
posted by callmejay at 8:45 AM on March 18, 2004

It seems to be the diet du jour here in the UK. I constantly hear people proclaiming how good it is, despite the frequent warnings one reads in the press and that are dished out by the government.
posted by chill at 9:00 AM on March 18, 2004

How much exercise can you accomplish if you aren't getting any carbs?

Atkins is not a no carb diet.
posted by maurice at 9:11 AM on March 18, 2004

Okay... I'm in the UK and on Atkins.

It is getting quite popular and it is a bit of a fad thing in the respect that people are jumping on it because it's a name.

It's also damned obvious that a lot of people slam it without knowing half as much as they think they do. If you want to slag off my eating habits learn a bit about them, then you can do what you want. ;)

Atkins isn't 'no carb'. It's low carb. I'm on the induction phase and I'm on 20g of carb a day. That's a shit load of vegetables or 3/4 of a kitkat. When you get off induction and into a sustained weight loss thing you lift the ammount of carb up until you are losing weight slowly. This could be any ammount depending on your body and your exercide.
posted by twine42 at 9:16 AM on March 18, 2004

You are not alone in taking an odd stance on this, Slime. Most of the criticism, including the linked articles, is based on assumptions that don't apply. It's a low-carb diet, not a no-carb diet. You say, where's my energy coming from? I say fat, boy. Your body preferentially burns carbs for fuel, but when you reduce your intake of carbs, you burn fat for energy (lipolysis), and how. I know when I'm in the zone of lipolysis because I have VASTLY MORE energy than usual. Energy swings disappear because your blood sugar level is controlled. Do you come home from work tired and famished, and devour a bag of chips or similar salty snack, washing it down with Pepsi? That's your blood telling you you're all fucked up and sliding toward type 2 diabetes. These swings and cravings disappear on Atkins (though it's certainly not necessary to go on Atkins to head off diabetes with diet modification), and cholesterol goes down.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:22 AM on March 18, 2004

It's already been in the Hungarian press, and lo carb diets have been on people's list of options for weight loss here for years. What we can't get in Hungary is things like overpriced Atkins Bake Mix, Atkins bars, and keeto-stix. And I have been Atkinsing for three months, and happily I don't need any of those things.
posted by zaelic at 9:48 AM on March 18, 2004

How much exercise can you accomplish if you aren't getting any carbs?

Atkins is not a no carb diet.

It wouldn't matter if Atkins were a no-carb diet. The body can burn protein for fuel, but it CANNOT convert protein to fat. So, if you lived on Marmite and nothing else, you would never gain any fat again.

This is the crux of the high-protein diet, that protein cannot be stored as fat.

This is why bodybuilders, just prior to a competition, live off nothing but protein (and often gunk up their kidneys with all that soy powder.)

But living on Marmite (or mostly on protein) has plenty of problems, like potentially higher cancer rates, kidney and liver problems, and sluggish brain activity (as your brain runs on glucose, man), and to me it's just downright silly.

Recent studies have even said that seratonin production requires the presence of carbohydrates, not just tryptophan, meaning Atkins diet could add to biochemical depression.

In any rate, moderation is the key;

It's better to eat a little too much than too little, since when your bod goes into starvation/survival mode it hoards fat, your metabolism slows, and you're likely to end up with lotsa cellulite;

And it's best to eat a balanced diet with plenty of carbs, then lose weight with moderate exercize.

I'd suggest something more like a a 40-30-30 weight loss plan.
posted by Shane at 10:31 AM on March 18, 2004

There was a documentary recently here in the UK looking at studies of the Atkins diet.

There was a TV programme called Diet Trials that followed people for a whole year while they tried one of four diets. What they found was that the people on Atkins were consuming just as few calories as the people on the other diets even though they were theoretically allowed to eat as much as they liked.

To cut a long story short, they looked at other research and found that protein is very important in suppressing appetite. On the other hand food that is high in fat increases appetite. So if their theory is correct, the reason Atkins works is because it makes you feel less hungry.

Having said that most of the experts they spoke to still don't recommend it.
posted by dodgygeezer at 12:12 PM on March 18, 2004

Okay, i get that Atkins is low-carb and not no-carb. I was exaggerating. My personal reaction to the diet is a bit of a red herring in the original post. Can we stay on the topic of international reaction to Atkins instead of people defending Atkins to me? Thanks, guys.
posted by Slimemonster at 12:17 PM on March 18, 2004

That's the problem, Slimemonster. Most of the negative reaction comes from people who don't know what they're talking about. Then people on the diet get overly defensive and it just becomes a vicious circle.

Chiming in another Australia perspective, we have had some negative press about it lately. Unfortunately most of those articles still get stuff wrong. I actually sent in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald after their last "Atkins will kill you!" editorial complaining that they'd characterized it as no-carb, but they refused to issue a correction. In terms of the general population, I think it's gaining popularity. GNC started importing Atkins stuff last year and every time I go in they claim they can't keep the stuff in stock. (Unfortunately they've got an exclusive deal to distribute it which means they charge ridiculous prices - $20 for a box of muffin mix! - and still sell the stuff.) Lately other third-party low-carb stuff is showing up too. I actually know someone who imported a containerload of products from the US and made quite a profit selling it over the Web here. At least two services have started in the last year that deliver readymade low-carb meals to your house. I'd guess we're still a year or two behind the U.S., though. I haven't seen any restaurants advertising low-carb meals and you can't find Atkins bars in gas stations. So we haven't reached the market saturation point here... yet.
posted by web-goddess at 2:38 PM on March 18, 2004

As with most of these things it's been in the press in the UK, celebs love it, some experts hate it and several people in my office are on it. It's in most of the magazines, has been on TV and I've seen a few restaurants advertise Atkins items on their menus.

So basically, like a lot of things, we are much the same as the USA... I think.

/pedant warning

UK = Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland & England (I can name more than 3 American States why can't you guys* remember this!)

* sweeping generalisation ;-)
posted by snowgoon at 4:04 PM on March 18, 2004

i apologize on behalf of all Americans for that, but i actually remembered that from the last time someone yelled at me for saying the wrong name. I dont know if you were referring to me, but was specifically referring to England. The place (as I understand it) where London is.
posted by Slimemonster at 8:20 PM on March 18, 2004

Shane - you got any references for those statements? Could explain a couple of things for me...
posted by twine42 at 6:00 AM on March 19, 2004

Which statements, twine? The stuff about protein being burnable for fuel but not convertable into fat is common knowledge amongst fitness enthusiasts, body-builders, nutritionists, etc. I'm not sure but I think I was introduced to the concepts in high school biology class.

Now, the stuff about carbs being necessary for trypto to metabolize into seratonin, that's only one article, and it was in print so I'll never be able to find it. While I cannot assert that the research proves this, I think the main point is that a balanced diet including carbs is the way to go, and depriving your body of carbs has consequences. Your body is like an ecosystem: systems are all interdependant and changes have repurcussions across the whole.

If you want, e-mail me. I'm in NO WAY an expert, but I've known a variety of people involved heavily in fitness and diet, and I have been through the mill between great fitness and and lousy shape myself (reading and being aware of the concepts involved the whole time.)

But here is another VERY USEFUL concept (oversimplified but accurate):

Fat and protein digest slowly, and even complex carbs digest more slowly than simple carbs and sugar.

If you eat something that digests VERY QUICKLY, like some candy, it overloads your blood sugar and provokes an insulin reaction. The insulin reaction grabs the sugar and begins storing it, and inevitably much is stored as fat (unless your sugar stored in muscles/etc (glycogen et al) is so depleted that it needs every but of that sugar.)

But, if you eat carbs, even simple ones, with protein and fat at the SAME TIME, the meal digests more slowly and does not necessarilly overload your blood sugar.

So, again, balance is the key.

It's a paradox, isn't it? A candy bar and an egg, eaten at the same time, are less likely to put fat on you than just the candy bar, even though the candy bar and the egg have more overall calories. Heh!
posted by Shane at 6:41 AM on March 19, 2004

the research into carbos being necessary for serotonin regulation/production was completed at MIT, as i recall, and was a very preliminary finding. it was covered in most of the american press yesterday (all the tribune conglom. pubs had it) and i caught a bit of it on HNN last night.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:37 AM on March 19, 2004

the research into carbos being necessary for serotonin regulation/production was completed at MIT, as i recall, and was a very preliminary finding. it was covered in most of the american press yesterday (all the tribune conglom. pubs had it) and i caught a bit of it on HNN last night.

Cool. Thanks, I hadn't caught that. The article I read was at least a year ago, maybe two or more. Different research, I guess. Nice to know MIT picked up the ball, though.
posted by Shane at 7:44 AM on March 19, 2004

a quick google scan shows that the carbo-serotonin link has been talked about for a long time. the goaskalice project at columbia mentions it at least four years ago and apparently the MIT press release is from february
posted by crush-onastick at 9:05 AM on March 19, 2004

well thanks on topic. J/K, thank you to everyone.
posted by Slimemonster at 2:12 AM on March 20, 2004

The French tend towards very strong disapproval of anything that looks like fad dieting. American-style obesity is completely socially unacceptable in France, and so is claiming that you can't control what you eat and how much. The typical French diet consists of trying to eat lighter food and drinking lots and lots of water. If people even paid attention to Atkins, it would be viewed as unnatural and therefore unhealthy, just another example of how the Americans look for excuses for being obese and understand nothing about how to feed themselves.

A Google search of pages in French for "Atkins" shows a few scattered Canadian pages, but almost nothing from France. The number 1 result isn't even about the diet.
posted by fuzz at 3:44 AM on March 20, 2004

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