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What Is the Connection between the Atkins Diet and Ketosis?

By C.B. Fox
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Atkins diet and ketosis are closely linked because the purpose of this diet is to force the body to enter a state of ketosis. While the body is in ketosis, it uses fat as an energy source instead of the sugars that it usually uses for fuel. Though this can help the body to burn some of its own fat stores, much of the fat that is broken down for energy comes directly from the food a person consumes. In many patients, the Atkins diet and ketosis have been linked to a number of health problems, including organ failure and cancer.

Logically, it would seem that the Atkins diet and ketosis promote the loss of body fat. After all, people who are on this diet consume so few carbohydrates that their bodies have no choice but to metabolize fat in order to keep up with the body's energy needs. In practice, however, much of the fat burned comes from the fat a person eats along with meat, which is the main component of the Atkins diet. If people do not sufficiently reduce their caloric intake and increase their activity, they will not lose either body fat or weight.

Under normal circumstances, the human body breaks carbohydrates and sugars down into glucose, which is used as fuel. Sugars can be used quickly, but carbohydrates need to be broken down into sugars before they can be used. The Atkins diet prevents the body from using its normal metabolic system because people who are on this diet severely limit their intake of simple and complex sugars. Without its primary fuel source, the body switches to the backup system of burning fat that it typically uses in times of famine.

Though short term use of the Atkins diet and ketosis to burn fat is usually not harmful, some people do experience adverse effects from this diet. The Atkins diet, because it relies so heavily on meats as a food source, is often high in cholesterol. Over time, cholesterol can damage the circulatory system and lead to problems with the heart, including heart failure. People following the Atkins diet and using ketosis to burn fat can also end up deficient in a number of vitamins and minerals that are only found in fruits and vegetables, foods which the Atkins diet limits. Patients should discuss the potential benefits and risks of the Atkins diet and ketosis with a physician before attempting to use them to lose weight.

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