The Ups and Downs of the Protein Diet

Monday, October 18th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Gyms are packed with people trying to lose weight and get in shape. Many of them will lose it quickly by using fad diets. The latest craze in fad dieting is to eat a lot of protein and no carbohydrates.

Jennifer Walker tried the protein diet. "It worked,” she said. “I got really lean, but I seemed to feel kind of dehydrated." Dietitians say that's exactly what the protein diet will do to a person. Janet Potts, a registered dietitian with St. John Health Center, says the diet can be extremely dangerous. "With dehydration, you lose a lot of fluid weight which can deplete your body of sodium and potassium,” she said. “Postassium can be particularly dangerous because it can cause heart arrhythmias or even the heart to stop."

You can find protein diet books at nearly every bookstore. The most popular book among dieters is Dr. Robert Atkins’s book entitled “Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution.” Using this diet, people can eat as much meat, cheese, eggs, bacon and sausage as they want. But they cut out carbohydrates such as pasta, some vegetables and bread. "The carbohydrate is your body's first fuel source, and in fact it's the only fuel source for the brain," said Potts. She says the diet can leave you feeling tired and weak. Thus when you add carbs back into your diet, you usually regain your initial weight plus some extra.

Walker says she put her weight back on in no time. "I'd probably do it again if I needed to lose it quickly,” she noted. “It’s only five pounds, but I know it's not permanent." Potts says that's what keeps the fad diets alive: people who want that quick fix. She says to remember that weight isn't put on overnight, and it won't come off overnight either.

Atkins has dismissed criticism of his diet as "dietitian talk.” He says many people on his diet have maintained their weight loss for years and lowered their cholesterol. But many dietitians say the only way to lose weight in a healthy manner and keep it off is to eat a balanced diet and exercise.