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Keto diet versus Atkins (Nutritionist weighs in)

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The keto diet is gaining popularity, as Google trends show. Much more so than the Atkins diet, which is plummeting to an all-time low.

Not too sure why the ketogenic diet shot up in the year 2017. In contrast, the Atkins diet stayed flat. 

keto diet versus atkins google trends
keto diet versus atkins google trends

Keto diet versus Atkins diet Overview

keto diet vs atkins
keto diet vs atkins

Here’s a brief overview of the two diets. Although both are almost identical to each other, they do have a subtle difference being a low carb diet.

When the Atkins diet first came out, it was mocked as a fad diet and deemed dangerous.

The Keto diet was used to treat epilepsy in the 1920s and 1930s, but it was abandoned after anticonvulsant drugs were discovered.

Keto diet overview

keto diet
keto diet

The keto diet has been around since the 1920s to treat epilepsy in children but pulled back due to the new anticonvulsant drugs.

It hit popularity again in 1997 after a movie about a kid’s epilepsy was effectively treated using the ketogenic diet. 

A famous movie director named Jim Abrahams has a child (Charlie Abrahams) who had uncontrolled epilepsy. 

Using modern medicine did not affect Charlie’s epileptic episodes. However, the keto diet was effective in controlling Charlie’s epilepsy.

The movie garnered attention from medical bodies and created a following in 1998. By 2007, the Ketogenic diet was available in more than 70 centers in more than 40 countries.

The keto diet is also under examination in treating a variety of diseases and disorders other than epilepsy.

[source: Keto diet revival]

The name keto diet came from our body’s process called ketosis. While in ketosis, we use fat for energy instead of glucose (carbs).

For our body to reach ketosis, we have to stay under 50 grams of carbs. Others may have to go lower than 50 grams of carbs because everyone is different. As for me, I had to go below 20 grams of carbs to reach ketosis. 

When you are on ketosis, you run on ketones, which your liver produces from metabolizing fats. 

[source: The ketogenic diet]

Atkins diet overview

atkins diet
atkins diet

The Atkins diet comes from the keto diet, which Atkins Nutritionals branded as their own and calling it the Atkins diet, hence the name.

[source: The Atkins diet commercialization]

The Atkins diet is very similar to the ketogenic diet, with some differences.

However, through the years, the Atkins diet went through changes. 

Atkins diet is broken down into four phases.

Stage 1: This is the first stage, and you need to restrict your carbs intake to less than 25 grams until you lose 15 pounds.

Stage 2: In this phase, you increase our carb limit to 50 grams per day until you are 10 pounds closer to your desired weight.

Stage 3: At this stage, you raise your carb to 80 grams per day until you reach your goal.

Stage 4: The last step is the maintenance phase. Of which your carb intake can go up to 100 grams per day. 

As you progress to your goal weight, your carb intake increases until you reach your goal weight. Once you reach your goal, your carb limit is at 100 grams per day for weight maintenance.

Eating 100 grams of carbs per day is still low compared to what the average American adult eats in a day.

[source: Statistical review of US macronutrient consumption data, 1965-2011: Americans have been following dietary guidelines, coincident with the rise in obesity]

The similarities and differences of the Keto diet vs Atkins diet

atkins diet vs keto diet
atkins diet vs keto diet

The Atkins diet came from the Ketogenic diet, which you can argue that the Atkins diet is ketogenic. 


Both the Atkins diet and the Ketogenic diet requires a low carb intake. 

Atkins and the Keto diet are both effective in losing weight. That’s why they are both popular. Due to it being a low carb diet, you are forced to eliminate all the sugar-laden food in your diet. 

Sugar-laden food and drinks such as cheesecakes, lollies, chocolates, milkshakes, beers, and many more that can wreak havoc to your body if left unchecked.

What’s the difference?

The difference comes with the slow introduction of carbs in the Atkins diet until you reach your goal weight. And then your carb intake goes up to less than 100 grams per day.

While on the ketogenic diet, you must stay under 50 grams of carb to remain in ketosis.

With this in mind, when you are on the ketogenic diet, you continue to burn fat. 

Whereas the Atkins diet, you will use carbs for energy instead of fats once you are in the third stage of the diet.

Benefits of the low carb diets

The benefits of the keto diet and Atkins diet are the following:

  • Blood sugar control
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased risk of heart disease

Blood sugar control

Numerous studies are showing that low carb diets can moderate blood sugar levels.

Forty-nine participants improved their blood sugar levels after undergoing a low carb diet in China.

[source: The Effect of Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Glycemic Control in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus]

Also, low carb diets have lessened the need for medications with type 2 Diabetes. 


“…Glycemic control significantly improved (HbA1c -1.1 ± 0.25%) with reductions in hypoglycemic medication…”

[source: Improvements in glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity with a low-carbohydrate diet in obese patients with type 2 diabetes]

In another study, patients reduced their diabetes medication after undergoing a low carb ketogenic diet.


“…The LCK participants experienced larger reductions in diabetes-related medication use…”

[source: Twelve-month outcomes of a randomized trial of a moderate-carbohydrate versus very low-carbohydrate diet in overweight adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes]

Weight loss

When it comes to appetite suppression, low-carb diets are the best—especially the ketogenic diet where you are restricted to less than 50 grams of carbs per day. 

Study shows that the ketogenic diet is superior when it comes to stopping hunger pangs. 


“Though the hunger-reduction phenomenon reported during ketogenic diets is well-known, the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms remain uncertain. Ketosis has been demonstrated to exert an anorexigenic effect via cholecystokinin (CCK) release while reducing orexigenic signals e.g., via ghrelin.”

[source: Ketosis, ketogenic diet and food intake control: a complex relationship]

“Individuals were less hungry and exhibited greater fullness/satiety while adhering to VLED, and individuals adhering to KLCD were less hungry and had a reduced desire to eat. 

… ketosis appears to provide a plausible explanation for this suppression of appetite.”

[source: Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis]

Decreased risk of heart disease

Studies support a high-fat diet that can increase the HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease the risk of heart-related diseases.


“Diets with cheese and meat as primary sources of SFAs cause higher HDL cholesterol and apo A-I and, therefore, appear to be less atherogenic than is a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.”

[source: Diets with high-fat cheese, high-fat meat, or carbohydrate on cardiovascular risk markers in overweight postmenopausal women: a randomized crossover trial]

Atkins diet versus keto — the winner

atkins versus keto
atkins versus keto

The Atkins diet and the Keto diet have their pros and cons. 

The Atkins diet is less restrictive when it comes to carbs by gradually increasing your carb intake as you get closer to your goal weight.

In the ketogenic diet, you stay on the same carb restriction to remain in ketosis.

Both diets have no long term studies (more than two years) supporting its safety for weight loss. 

There is no clear winner when choosing a diet for the general public. Everyone is different, after all. Even twins process food differently.

[source: Identical twins response to food]

Therefore, you must seek guidance from qualified physicians, Dieticians, and Nutritionists to guide you safely.


Both the Atkins diet and the keto diet are effective at reducing your weight in the short term. In saying that, there are limited studies of the long term use of the diet regarding its safety or toxicity. 

The Atkins diet may increase your sugar cravings by increasing your carbs intake, giving you more leeway for sweets and other sugar-laden junk food.

In saying that, you can try to control your sweet tooth. But, as you know, if you have a sweet tooth, it’s hard.

On the keto diet, your sweet cravings vanish until you start introducing carbs again into your diet. 

Do I think both are effective in weight loss? Yes, I do. 

If I were to choose for myself, I’d take the keto diet. I did lose 33 pounds on the keto diet without exercise or calorie counting in four months.

When it comes to safety, the keto diet proved in a one year study that it is safe. 

Patients lowered their bad cholesterol, increased the good cholesterol, reduced their body mass index, decreased their blood sugar levels, and lost weight.

It’s also important to note that there was no increase in urea or creatinine levels, showing no damage to the kidney functions while on the ketogenic diet for 24 months.

[source: Long term effect of keto diet]

Look you can always stop the keto diet after you reach your desired goal weight. And, slowly introduce carbs into your diet.

Again, everyone is different. What works for me may not work for you. Please seek advice from qualified professionals when starting any diet.

“I have the metabolism of a sloth and a body that hates putting on muscles. This curse motivated me to study weight loss and nutrition. I want to share my experiences and knowledge to help you achieve your ideal body.”

— Christian Tanobey

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