When Dr Robert Atkins published his book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, in 1972, and told people they could lose weight fast by eating a high protein diet that was low in carbohydrates, his dieting method was an instant hit.
Millions of people bought the book and began taking his advice. His book also sparked a lot of controversy and many health experts continue to point out the long-term use of such a dieting method may endanger the health.
Now researchers at Imperial College London hope to develop a diet pill that will deliver all the benefits of the Atkins Diet without any of the risks.
The Atkins Diet is still popular the world over. The actress Renee Zellweger became a fan of the technique during the 1990s, as did fellow Hollywood-hottie, Jennifer Aniston.
Last year Kim Kardashian admitted the Atkins diet helped her to lose 60 pounds, and Sharon Osbourne is also a fan. It’s an extreme weight loss system, but many people find it delivers the goods and, at the hight of its popularity, more than three million British citizens admitted they’d ditched the carbs and started to use Dr Atkins’ method.
Kevin Murphy (Professor of Endocrinology at Imperial College London) states he and his fellow researchers have discovered why the Atkins Diet works and it may be possible to produce a pill that works in the same way, but is unlikely to pose any risks to the health.
The research data reveals a diet that is high in protein triggers the release of the chemical phenylalanine. This causes a couple of interesting hormonal changes.
This data appears to suggest the link between a high protein diet and appetite suppression comes down to a matter of hormones and Murphy believes an Atkins Diet pill could solve a lot of problems.
“I think people don’t stick to high protein diets and there is evidence they might not be great for you in the longer term,” Murphy said. “So, if you exploit this in a pill, that would be great.”
Despite its popularity, many people do find it hard to stick to the Atkins diet, and Mayo Clinic medical professional, Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., states any weight loss attained by following such a regimen may be quick to return once the system is stopped.
Some of the dangers linked to the Atkins diet include, constipation, headaches, impaired kidney function, increased likelihood of heart disease and cancer.
In theory, a diet pill that could harness the good points of the diet, while also taking away the risks, could be a god-send to anyone needing to lose weight. The only problem is the data that supports the creation of such a pill was obtained from rodent-based studies. There is no proof it is equally relevant to humans.
The research team at Imperial College simulated the effects of a high protein diet by giving the rodents daily doses of phenylalanine for a period of seven days. The rodents began to eat less food and lose weight. Further investigation revealed the phenylalanine had interacted with a calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) and the researchers speculate this is what provided the appetite suppressing effect.
Looking to the future, lead author Mariana Norton said: “Our task is to prove activating CaSR suppresses the appetite. It highlights the potential use of phenylalanine or other molecules that stimulate CaSR—such as food components or drugs—for the prevention and treatment of obesity.”
The research results were presented today at the annual Society for Endocrinology conference in Brighton.