Like any popular diet, there are both benefits and risks to following a restricted eating plan. Here’s a look at some of them for the Atkins diet.


There are a handful of possible pros to following the Atkins nutritional approach.

For one, the diet is relatively easy to stick to. “For people who have a weight problem, every meal is a battle, a tremendous psychological burden. A carbohydrate-restricted diet eliminates the battle,” says Richard D. Feinman, PhD, a biochemistry professor at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, and the founder and former co-editor in chief of the journal Nutrition & Metabolism. Dr. Feinman has published scientific research on Atkins and carbohydrate-restricted diets. “Protein is the stable part of the diet — that is going to give you some control over the fight with food,” he says.

Also, the diet is not based on portion control, which some people may view as a hurdle in popular diets. “What does portion control really mean? Self-control — and that doesn’t really have a good record,” says Feinman. “Small portions are good, but on a low-carbohydrate diet, if you are still hungry, you can eat another small portion. On a low-fat diet, if you are still hungry, you may be out of luck.”

Susan Kraus, RD, a clinical dietitian at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, says the simple structure of the Atkins diet can make it straightforward for some people to adhere to. “People feel it’s easy to follow,” she says. “You focus on a few food groups, there’s simplicity in that you don’t have to measure foods, and you’re not feeling deprived.”

Following the low-carb fad diet may also help people with type 2 diabetes who are looking for a solution to high blood sugar. “Reducing carbohydrates has a health benefit, whether or not you lose weight,” says Feinman. For example, a January 2015 review published in Nutrition shows carbohydrate restriction can help in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. (13)


On the flip side, you’re not getting a well-balanced diet with the Atkins Nutritional Approach. “With any diet that eliminates a whole food group, you’re not going to get all your nutrients,” says Barbara Schmidt, RD, a lifestyle specialist at Norwalk Hospital and a nutritionist in private practice in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Then there’s the lack of fiber, an important nutrient that can help you feel full and curb unhealthy cravings. “Omitting all these food groups — [such as] grains and fruit — even if you make up nutrients with a vitamin and mineral supplement, you’re not getting enough fiber,” Kraus says. “There are also many phytochemicals, which are compounds found naturally in fruits and veggies, that provide strong antioxidant effects (and that might not be found in a general multivitamin and mineral supplement), along with fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, that would not be gotten by eating this way.”

Last, the Atkins diet may cause dehydration, which could lead to light-headedness or energy loss, according to the Atkins website. (14) Carbs hold on to water in your body, so when you don’t eat carbs, you lose a lot of water weight. This can also raise your uric acid level and cause a gout attack, increase calcium loss through urine, and overwork your kidneys and liver, says Kraus.

In an article published in May 2015 in Advances in Nutrition, researchers caution that although high-protein diets may be beneficial for some people looking to lose weight, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider to make sure this approach is safe for you. (15) Some research, like a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, shows a high-protein diet may lead to reduced kidney function in women with prior mild renal dysfunction. (16)

Regardless, if you’re upping your protein intake, be sure to drink extra water. The Atkins diet recommends drinking at least eight 8 oz glasses of water per day. (14)

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