Is there a Link Between Adkins Diet and Clinical Depression?

Twice when I have done Atkins I see a huge change in my mental being. I get depressed. This usually starts around a month of doing Akins and basically lasted until I quit.
I talked to someone at The Akins Center and it was suggested I take vitamins especially B complex. I took the advice but saw no improvement. When I tried Atkins the 2nd time and added exercise to my plan the results were still the same, depression hit me like a ton on bricks. I do not take an antidepressant and will not take one. (which Dr. Atkins didn't like either).
P.S. I do want to mention I do not suffer from depression on a regular basis, it is when I low-carb that I get this way.

In one of our previous publications we provided an insight on the direct link between nutrition and depression. Here we will review the possible connection between Atkins Diet and Depression.

What is Atkins Diet?
Atkins style lower carbohydrate diet is one of the very popular diets that have helped people to lose weight. The most appealing aspect of the Atkins style lower carbohydrate diet, among other similar low carb diets, is that the foods you can eat are essentially the opposite of most other diets. With low carb diets, you eat a lot of protein and fats and very restricted carbohydrates.

The Atkins diet is a high protein and fat and very low-carbohydrate routine. It put emphasis on meat, cheese, and eggs, while recommending reduction in consumption of foods such as bread, pasta, fruit, and sugar. The key advantage of the diet is rapid and substantial weight loss.

By limiting carbohydrate intake, the body will burn more fat, stored in the body. Because there are no restrictions on the amount of calories or quantities of foods allowed on the diet, there is little hunger between meals. Uncontrollable hunger and food craving is the main cause of many dieting failures. It is in fact noted those who follow the Atkins style lower carbohydrate plan eventually find their effective individual range of carbohydrate intake, which is then considered as the tool that helps the dieters to maintain a healthy weight for the rest of their lives.

The primary reason that both men and women follow the Atkins style lower carbohydrate plan is to lose weight. With this principle, it is noted that many people who have followed the Atkins style lower carbohydrate procedure to weight loss readily take off inches and pounds.

The Atkins style lower carbohydrate plan has also worked for those people with strong metabolic resistance to weight loss. This diet provides many ways to surpass the barriers that obstruct a successful diet result. Those who have failed to lose weight with other diets, successfully do so with Atkins.

The Atkins style lower carbohydrate plan helps people to not only lose the weight, but to also keep it off. This fact makes the Atkins style lower carbohydrate nutritional approach more superior than other weight control programs.

Does Atkins cause depression?
In spite of the certain effectiveness in losing weight, the low-carb Atkins diet has prompted criticism from many doctors who fear it could increase the risk of long-term health problems such as kidney damage, high cholesterol and diabetes. For example, the group of prominent nutritionists, supported by The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has urged the hospitals to ban the Atkins diet completely. 

Latest researches have now suggested Atkins Diet could also affect mental health, leaving dieters feeling grumpy, tired, irritable, apathetic and restless.

A study of 100 men and women found that dieters on a protein-rich regime are far more prone to mood swings and depression than those on high- carbohydrate, low-protein diets.

The reason? Carbohydrates produce higher levels of serotonin, the body's "happy hormone" which is released by the brain to stabilize mood swings. Carbohydrates raise serotonin levels naturally, acting as a natural tranquillizer and antidepressant.

The team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S. found that eating sweet and starchy carbohydrates, such as potatoes, pasta and bread, increases the brain's production of serotonin when eaten with very small amounts of protein.

Serotonin is also the chemical which makes us feel full after eating.

'Emotional zombies'
Dr Judith Wurtmen, who led the study, concludes that dieters, who eat a lot of protein and fat, as recommended on the Atkins diet, are therefore in danger of becoming "emotional zombies".

Certain people, she says, are actually "carbohydrate cravers". They rely on carbohydrates to keep their moods steady, so cutting out this food group altogether is "like taking water away from someone hiking in the desert".

Dr Stuart Trager, chairman of The Atkins Physician Council, naturally disputes the claim that a low-carbohydrate diet can cause depression.

He says: "Mood and energy levels are related to many factors. Additionally, it is important to remember that serotonin is made within the body from ingested protein, rather than carbohydrates. Controlling carbohydrates helps people manage their weight, improve body image, and stabilizes blood sugar."

Protein lowers serotonin
But nutritionist Fiona Hunter says: "Although serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan which is found in protein-rich foods such as meat and cheese, eating a protein-rich meal actually lowers serotonin in the brain.

"This is because when you eat a protein-rich meal you flood the blood with other competing amino acids, as well as tryptophan, which all fight for entry into the brain. Only a small amount of tryptophan is able to get through, so serotonin levels do not rise greatly.

"In contrast, a carbohydrate-rich meal triggers the release of the hormone insulin which causes all amino acids, except tryptophan, to be absorbed into the cells. With the competition removed, tryptophan can freely enter the brain, causing serotonin levels to rise."

Dr Cecilia Tregear, who specializes in the effects that diet has on hormone levels, agrees: "In my experience people on the Atkins diet are prone to mood swings, anxiety and erratic behavior. Sugar is the main food for the brain and without it, the brain struggles.
"The thyroid gland needs to be activated by carbohydrates and without them it slows down, and a slow thyroid has been linked to depression.

"Overall, the Atkins diet is not a balanced diet, which will result in unbalanced hormones and therefore unbalanced moods."

Four years ago I went on the Atkins diet. It worked great; I lost over 60 pounds in about four months. I felt great and was on my way to being the best shape of my life.
However, as mentioned in the possible diet dangers it can affect the brain activity relying on carbohydrates, serotonin. In my case, I had a history of depression and with the Atkins diet after a couple months of the weight loss I went back into depression. So as mentioned be careful when thinking of going on this diet.

Based on the multiple sources, I have reviewed, there is hard to say, if the negative impact of Adkins Diet overweighs its positive results for the body weight loss.

However, the research materials and users feedback is sufficient to be extremely careful with using this diet in your nutrition program. The Atkins diet isn't for everyone. Some people need more carbohydrates than others. And many people don't need to go to the extreme of eating nothing but protein in order to lose weight.

If you notice any signs of depression, while on Atkins Diet, consult with your physician and therapist.

Sources and Additional Information:


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