What is the Modified Atkins Diet

The Modified Atkins Diet is also the name given to a bona fide, scientifically recognized form of the Atkins Diet that can help to control certain forms of epilepsy in children and young adults.

When people mention to me that they are following a Modified Atkins Diet I’m always curious to know why and how.

I actually did some very unscientific investigation work into what exactly most dieters meant by the term  and I discovered that more often than not, it was the way in which they had personally adapted the Atkins Diet Plan to better suit their own needs and lifestyle choices.

Modifiers (as I like to call them) tend to only follow the bits they like about the Atkins Diet Menu and drop the bits they find difficult or are not so keen on.

For example, my neighbor told me he followed the Atkins Diet Food List to the letter for six days a week, and then he ate and drunk whatever he wanted to on a Saturday.
There can be a good reason to follow a diet like that, because in that way your body doesn’t get the chance to adapt to a certain  metabolic level.

He still lost weight so this form of diet certainly worked for him – but I know if I did the same as him my weight would pile back on big time!

I guess through trial and error it is possible to manipulate your weight loss program and continue to lose pounds – but without exception I found that everyone I spoke to who had started to follow a form of Modified Atkins Diet said they struggled to lose weight as quickly as when they had stuck faithfully to the plan. But I’ll get back to these “modifiers” and manipulators later!

Controlling Seizures in Children and Young Adults

What I also discovered while researching on the internet really blew me away. The Modified Atkins Diet is also the name given to a bona fide, scientifically recognized form of the Atkins Diet that can help to control certain forms of epilepsy in children and young adults.

I know, it sounds crazy that the Atkins Diet Plan, forever dogged by bad press and fraught with controversy, should also be helping thousands of children and young adults to live a more normal way of life. But that’s how it is: there are some health benefits to the Atkins Diet that help suppress a tendency for epilepsy and seizures.

The Ketogenic Diet vs the Modified Atkins Diet

The Modified Diet, when used to help control seizures, is in fact an alternative to the ketogenic diet, which is also low in carbohydrate and high in fats.

Created in 2002 at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore Maryland, by Dr. Eric Kossoff, the Modified Atkins Diet was developed in response to the need for an alternative to the ketogenic diet plan. It was an alternative for those people who were unable to properly follow the strict ketogenic program – primarily children and young adults.

Dr. Kossoff had noted that one of his patients, a seven year old girl, who had suffered from daily seizures stopped having them when her parents put her on the Atkins Diet Plan. They had put her on the Atkins Diet Plan to get her body and metabolism accustomed to a low carbohydrate diet prior to her starting the ketogenic diet – but she didn’t have to. Instead, she remained on the Atkins Diet Plan – modifying it so she ate just 10g of net carbohydrate daily instead of 20-30g.

What convinced Dr. Kossoff even more of the potential benefits of a Modified Diet, was when a ten year old male patient also stopped having seizures after his parents had put him on a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. They had previously given up on the ketogenic diet because it was so restrictive for a child. Not being able to eat out, or eat the same foods as your friends is tough for a child.

Low Carbohydrate (a Low Carb Diet)

The original Atkins diet is very low in carbohydrate, the Modified Diet is lower still – typically allowing for just 10-30 g of net carbohydrate per day. It also includes more protein than the ketogenic diet plan and is very high in fat.

Why the Modified Diet is better suited for kids

The Modified Diet is a much more child-friendly plan than the restrictive ketogenic diet. It allows unlimited amounts of fluid and there is no weighing food and counting the calories – which is so much more practical for children. If they are thirsty they can have a drink, if they are hungry they can have something to eat.

Children don’t have the reasoning and understanding to know why certain foods have become forbidden to them. Having an easy food list to follow means they do not feel denied and parents aren’t run ragged trying to prepare interesting meals from a restricted ingredients list. Eating out and still staying low carb is something that a parent can control.

What is Different about the Modified Diet?

The difference between the traditional Atkins Diet Plan and the Modified Diet is that carbohydrates are reduced to 10g per day rather than the 20 g per day during the initiation period.

And, fats are increased – patients are encouraged to eat oils, mayonnaise, cream and butter in larger quantities.

The most obvious difference though? This diet is not being followed for weight loss – it is purely for its potential medical benefits.

Scientific Studies Show this Modified Diet Can Help Control Epilepsy

A formal study of the Modified Atkins Diet and its results was published in 2006. This study was fully supported by the Dr. Robert C. Atkins Foundation. Out of sixteen children who followed the Modified Atkins Diet for six months, roughly two-thirds of them had 50% fewer seizures, and seven had an over 90% improvement rate. Four lucky children became seizure free.

And, in 2010 a Danish study of 33 children on the Modified Diet showed it was just as effective as a strict ketogenic diet. When the diet was followed for two months 70% of the children showed at least a 50% reduction in seizures.

The facts can’t be denied, the Modified Diet really can help children become seizure free. Further studies are currently being undertaken with adults.

Why Does It Work?

Even the Doctors at John Hopkins Hospital can’t answer this question! But it does.

The Other Atkins Diet “Modifiers”

So, I promised I’d come back to the “Modifiers”.

This is the name I have given all those people who follow a Modified Diet in order to lose weight and not for the medical reasons outlined above. These are the people that might not like certain foods and so substitute them and still follow most of the “rules” of the Atkins Plan. These are the people that might struggle to follow a diet but have managed to adapt it to make it easier for themselves.

Can You Modify the Atkins Diet and Lose Weight Fast?

I’m not convinced. There is a reason there are strict rules and four Phases to the Atkins Weight Loss Program – it’s to help you lose weight fast and safely.

Modifiers may still lose weight, but it could take a long time – and a slow weight loss can often lead to despondency, which can all too easily lead to them giving up altogether on their weight loss diet.

A Modified Diet for Vegetarians and Vegans

Probably the most ingenious members of the Atkins community are the vegetarians and vegans. I mean you have to have a certain amount of chutzpah to think you can take on a diet so heavily reliant on meat and animal fats and then change it to suit vegetarians and vegans!

Also, let’s not forget there are many world religions that include vegetarianism as part of their belief structure, so a Modified Atkins Diet can play an inclusive role – food and eating is a great human leveler, we all have to eat to survive and one diet should be no more exclusive than another.

What to Modify

Vegetarians follow a Diet that substitutes animal meat products for other high protein foods.

A vegan, on the other hand, not only has to substitute the meat, but also any product of animal origin – so cream, butter and eggs are right out. This is tough going with the Atkins diet. But it can be done.

One way of following an Atkins Diet as a vegan or vegetarian is to skip the Induction Phase. By going straight to the OWL Phase you are allowed 30 g of net carbs a day – this means protein rich nuts, seeds and pulses can be eaten more freely.

Vegetarians can eat unsweetened dairy foods such as cream and cottage cheese, whereas vegans can eat tofu, Quorn and soya based dairy products.

The danger is in the net carbs – but by keeping track of them (writing them down is the best way) it is possible to follow a vegetarian and vegan Atkins Diet and still lose weight.

Do I believe in Modifying the Atkins Diet?

You’ve probably guessed that I’m a purist. The Atkins Diet is all you need for successful weight loss. I know this for a fact – from personal experience. It is a carefully managed diet that works – I don’t think it needs to be modified.

BUT, when a true Modified Atkins Diet prescribed by a physician is used to help control seizures in children and young adults who can argue with it?

I feel a bit of pride knowing that the weight loss diet I follow can be modified to help children lead a better quality of life. That’s just plain cool!

I also respect the principles and beliefs held by vegans and vegetarians – so if they can still diet by following a kind of Atkins Diet then I think that’s great, and I wish them well. Go for it!

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