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What Is the Modified Atkins Diet?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 17, 2024
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A modified Atkins diet is an eating plan that adheres to the principles of the original Atkins diet, such as limiting carbohydrate intake, with a few alterations. Typically, these alterations make the diet a little healthier because more variety is encouraged and portion control is often practiced. Additionally, a modified Atkins diet usually shifts the bulk of fat intake to healthier, unsaturated varieties. One version of this diet is also used to help control seizures in patients with epilepsy and has been shown to be effective in people who can stick to the eating plan. Patients may prefer this diet because it is less restrictive than the ketogenic diet that is often prescribed for seizure control, making it a bit easier to follow.

The original Atkins diet was developed in the 1960s by Dr. Robert C. Atkins, and it is based primarily on the severe restriction of carbohydrate consumption. This is because Dr. Atkins believed that the fluctuations in blood sugar that result from the ingestion of carbohydrates caused weight gain. He recommended that followers of the diet eat as much fat and protein as they desired, and did not require them to limit portion sizes or caloric intake. This usually resulted in people eating a range of foods that are now considered to be unhealthy, so the diet was modified in the 1990s.

A modified Atkins diet usually tries to balance healthy eating with the principles of the original plan. Alterations are made in an effort to allow followers to eat a more balanced diet. Small amounts of carbohydrates are allowed, although intake is still quite limited when compared to the typical diet of an average individual. Another important change is that followers of the diet are encouraged to derive most of their fat intake from unsaturated fats since they have fewer health risks associated with consumption than the saturated type. Portion control and calorie limitations are also encouraged to curb consumption of unhealthy foods.

For patients with epilepsy, following a modified Atkins diet has been shown to have some therapeutic benefits. This is believed to be because the diet's high levels of fat consumption allow substances called ketones to build up in the patient's system. The presence of ketones in the body seems to inhibit seizure activity in many patients, but the diets that encourage them to build up are usually extremely tough to follow. The modified Atkins diet may be easier because it is much less restrictive than the ketogenic diet which is often prescribed. The ketogenic diet imposes stricter limitations on carbohydrates and calories, as well as limiting fluid intake, which makes it even harder to follow than the modified Atkins diet.

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