A case for the Atkins diet, the original low carb diet that works

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Atkins snack bars Creative Commons 2.0/Mike Mozart

Themistocles Stavrou

Does anyone remember the Atkins diet? It was the craze of the early 2000’s that saw everyone swapping bread for bacon and chips for chicken. It shed kilos off many and many still swear by it, but an equal number dismiss Atkins as a fad; just another diet in a milieu of temporary fixes which exist solely to rob you of your money.

However, unlike most fad diets, the Atkins approach has stood firm where others have fallen.

It all began in 1972, when Dr. Robert C. Atkins started to formalise a controlled carbohydrate approach after noticing the increasing obesity problem among his US patients. He discovered that eating the right foods while limiting refined carbohydrates “changed a person’s body from a carb-burning to a fat-burning machine,” which led to successful weight loss.

Today’s low-carb New Atkins diet is based on this same controlled carbohydrate principle, and the company provides not just recipes and support books, but also products like bars, drinks and shakes that complement the New Atkins eating model.

“Our products are developed to make healthy low-carb eating simple and easy to follow, especially for busy people who need to snack on the go,” managing director of Atkins Nutritionals Australia/New Zealand, Richard Sullivan, tells International Business Times Australia.

“In the Australian market, changes in the [health and fitness] sector mirror the shift in people’s eating habits, and Atkins plans to continue educating consumers about the benefits of low-carb and low-sugar eating for long-term health.”

A recent study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that while fewer Australians are drinking and smoking every year, obesity is more prevalent than ever. What this means is that Australians are beginning to see the benefits correlated with a healthy lifestyle, but many still struggle with their weight.

One of the reasons for this paradox is the inconsistency of easily accessing accurate information online. According to a study conducted by ‘The Journal of the American Medical Association’ in 2001:

“Little is known, however, about whether the available material (online) is sufficiently complete and accurate to support consumer decision making. Several studies of single medical conditions have suggested deficiencies in the quality of Web-based health information.”

The study basically predicted the whole ‘Google your Symptoms’ trend, which has translated into almost every aspect of our lives. “Just Google it” is probably the ruling motto many Australians abide by today.

However, the plethora of contradicting links that crop up when you Google “how to lose weight’ are too confusing and intimidating for the average Australian. An abundance of information makes it difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction. Just look at the vaccination debate (we mean Google it) and you’ll quickly realise it’s hard to find ‘the truth’ online.

“It’s important to share the science behind the success of the low-carb approach to dispel misconceptions and misinformation,” said Sullivan. “The Atkins diet is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’. Every person’s individual tolerance for carbohydrates is different, and Atkins followers learn to find the intake most suitable for them to maintain optimal health.”

Atkins is unique in the supplement market precisely because it shies away from wanting to cater for everyone at once. Instead it provides a personalised diet plan, with each of its products branded and designed to be taken at certain phases of the diet. This differs from other protein bars or diet shakes on the market which are designed to be consumed as a healthy snack or an alternative to a sugary treat. For Atkins, this works as both a health and business strategy as consumers lose weight more effectively and so build trust with the brand over time.

“Our focus will continue to be educating people about healthy eating and how to make long-term dietary changes to boost their health,” Sullivan said. “With our increasingly hectic lifestyles, demand for healthy snacks will keep growing, and Atkins will continue to develop innovative products to meet this need.”

Atkins has come a long way since it was first written, and has been modified to account for sugar alcohols, fibre, net carbs and paleo dieting. It also accepts the ever-evolving nature of nutritional science, and it is this willingness to admit and rework scientific wrongs that accounts towards the company’s continual relevance.

In fact, ever since its original launch, Atkins’ evolution has been driven not by businessmen, but its Scientific Advisory Board made up of leading international medical experts, dieticians and nutritionists.

So what is next for Atkins nutritionals, particularly as market research shows fitness and weight loss products are not gaining as much market share as compared to exercise performance enhancers?

“At Atkins, we’re constantly considering opportunities to innovate and benefit health-conscious consumers, and the viability of developing a dedicated sports and fitness product range is something we continue to monitor,” said Sullivan. But Atkins Nutritionals has, and will not veer from its original goal: increase levels of healthiness and wellbeing amongst the human populace.

A healthy global population is the ultimate goal for everyone in the health sector, but there’s a long way to go yet. There is still a huge number of people battling obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, which are just some of the conditions the Atkins approach was formulated to counteract.

Yet for all the fad diets and eating plans that have come and gone, most can be traced back to Atkins. Paleo? Atkins advocated cutting out processed grains ages ago. Dunkan? Ketogenic manipulation is what the Atkins induction phase is all about. Low carb and high protein diets?


At the end of the day, it seems Atkins nutritionals really are the low carb experts.

Themistocles works as a Personal trainer in Ultimo Sydney. As a Communications undergraduate, he hopes to contribute to the 'body image' discourse and work as a health journalist in the future.