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What Are the Atkins Diet Side Effects?

Leg cramps are a side effect of the Atkins diet, and can persuade some to stop the diet.
A low-carbohydrate diet can lead to ketosis breath.
The induction phase of the Aitkins diet may lead to constipation.
Headaches and fatigue are two common side effects of adherence to the Atkins Diet.
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  • Written By: Kelly Ferguson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2014
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The Atkins diet has gotten both strong support and strong opposition over the years. Some of the opposition results from unpleasant side effects experienced by people who have tried the diet. A few of the more common Atkins diet side effects include headaches, fatigue, and leg cramps. Supporters of the diet claim that these negative side effects of the diet generally do not last very long, and are sometimes outweighed by positive Atkins diet side effects such as increased energy.

Developers of the Atkins diet admit that, usually during the induction phase of the diet that is the famous restrictive beginning phase, some people do experience headaches, sore muscles, and fatigue. They attribute these temporary Atkins diet side effects to a phenomenon known as “carb withdrawal.” Constipation is also a common concern, probably due to the lack of fibrous vegetable intake. They recommend using fiber substitutes during the induction phase if constipation becomes bothersome.

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Short-term Atkins diet side effects that are most commonly complained about by the dieters themselves include all of the ones officially recognized by Atkins, with the addition of bad breath, lack of physical and mental energy and stamina, and muscle loss. Leg cramps and dizziness are also fairly common concerns that can be worrisome enough that some dieters end up stopping the diet. The bad breath is often attributed to the excretion of ketones, which have an unpleasant odor, and the reduced physical and mental energy is explained with the fact that the body, and especially the brain, prefer to burn carbohydrates for fuel to run most efficiently. Despite the fact that Atkins claims most of these side effects wear off after the initial induction phase, many dieters either find that some unpleasant side effects persist throughout the entire course of the diet or they are unable to stand the side effects long enough to test whether the problems will eventually disappear.

Some dieters do stay on the diet long term, however, and experience more positive side effects than negative ones. Regularly cited positive effects include increased rather than decreased energy and lower blood pressure. Long-term negative side effects may occur for some people because of the restricted vitamins and minerals provided in Atkins-friendly foods. Additionally, many critics of the diet express concern over how much animal fat and protein is eaten from animal sources on this diet rather than plant sources, which are considered more heart-healthy. Scientific evidence on the long-term health benefits or risks of the Atkins diet are somewhat contradictory, and may include anything from increased health and quality of life to a much higher risk of heart disease.

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