Are the Atkins and Sugar Busters diets appropriate for your overweight child? Why pediatric nutritionists say no.

Dangerous Diets

Q: Are the Atkins and Sugar Busters diets appropriate for overweight kids?

A: No. Although the popular series of Sugar Busters books now has an edition specifically for children and many fans of the Atkins low-carb diet are putting their kids on the diet plan, pediatric nutrition experts advise parents against it. "That's because extreme diets and their impact on growth have not been studied extensively," says Bill Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of nutrition and physical activity for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

What's more, these books incorrectly assert that eating few carbohydrates is essential for keeping insulin levels low because high levels, found in many overweight children, trigger fat storage and weight gain. Rather, eating too much of any food causes people to gain weight, says Dr. Dietz. "It's important to find healthy ways to keep total calories, not just carbohydrate intake, under control," he explains.

If your child is significantly overweight, ask her pediatrician for advice or a referral to a dietician. And don't be discouraged if she doesn't lose weight. "For a 7-year-old girl, just maintaining her body weight is about the same as an adult losing six pounds in a year," says Dr. Dietz.

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Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the May 2002 issue of Child magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.