Morgan is a doctoral candidate in the field of clinical nutrition and nutritional neuroscience, having received her bachelors degree from Central Washington University.
The Eco-Atkins diet keeps the same macronutrient ratios of the Atkins diet (balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat), but differs from the original Atkins plan in its replacement of animal proteins with vegetable-based proteins, such as soy. So while the typical Atkins plan was ripe with vegetables, fats, and animal proteins, the Eco-Atkins plan keeps the vegetables and healthy fats, but kicks out animal proteins and incorporates soy and tofu-based protein sources (namely, soy “meat” replacements, including veggie burgers, tofu, and nuts). High fat animal products (butter, shortening, dairy fat) are also replaced with healthier alternatives for as a means of reducing LDL cholesterol and improving cardiovascular health.
A primary criticism of the original Atkins diet was its high animal fat content. Health researchers were pleased that the diet was successful in initiating weight loss, improving insulin sensitivity, and increasing healthy HDL cholesterol. However, the original diet did not have any discernable effect on “bad” LDL cholesterol levels: namely, the diet was not particularly successful at lowering them. In light of this research, Nutritional Scientist David Jenkins sought to devise a plan that offered the benefits of the Atkins diet while reducing bad cholesterol levels.
The Eco- Atkins diet is a fairly difficult diet to comply with long-term, thanks to its near exclusion of animal products.
This diet requires no user fees, as it is not currently marketed as a diet. The only cost to dieters is groceries and any Atkins- style guidebooks or resources used to obtain an understanding of the Atkins plan and macronutrient distribution before replacing the aforementioned fat and protein sources with healthier choices.
As this diet lacks user resources, users must consult resources from the original Atkins diet, or take cues from the available information on the Eco-Atkins plan. Most dieters will spend a good amount of time researching this plan in order to change their eating styles. Overall, this diet takes slightly more time than other healthy eating plans thanks to the time spent researching both the original Atkins diet and its “Eco-style” cousin.
Eco-Atkins is safe for most dieters. However, as it is a plan intended to improve cardiovascular health, many dieters considering the plan may have a preexisting health condition, including but not limited to diabetes, prediabetes, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. Always discuss any dietary changes with your doctor, regardless of whether a plan promises to improve your health condition.
This diet is not widely debated, as it is considered to be a safe plan that produces the desired, cholesterol-improving effects.
Benefits: The Eco-Atkins plan has been shown to effectively reduce weight by reducing Caloric consumption and focusing on the consumption of vegetables and healthy fats. Improved nutritional status and reduced intake of “bad” fats can also potentially improving cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health. The triad of weight loss, reduction in LDL cholesterol, and improved nutritional quality is crucial for overweight individuals, especially those at risk for heart disease.
Downsides: May be too restrictive for dieters to stick with long term; dieters accustomed to animal protein would likely have greater success by adhering to a diet that focuses on vegetables, lean animal proteins (chicken, fish, eggs), nonfat dairy, and fruit than they would a plan that eliminates all animal products. The Eco-Atkins diet, being the brainchild of researchers, is also not available on the Atkins website, and is therefore lacking in many resources that are often crucial for dieters success. This lack of behavioral change support, recipes, and other support tools leaves a void in which many dieters may flounder.
The Bottom Line: Eco-Atkins is a heart-healthy diet that may benefit dieters who are facing an imminent cardiovascular threat, or for those looking a healthy, low carbohydrate vegan or vegetarian diet. However, for the majority of dieters, its lack of resources and strict style of eating may diminish long-term compliance and success.