Nobody can deny many people have lost weight on the Atkins Diet so you can call me a pessimist if you like but let me know how many have kept the weight off in a year's time.

But while the debate has raged over the safety of the Atkins diet, let me get on my favourite hobby horse and ask: Does any fad diet work in the long term?

Any diet that restricts your intake in a biased way is doomed to failure because you simply can't keep it up.

Our culinary culture is based on combining carbohydrates with protein and yet Atkins doesn't allow that.

Of course, it's not impossible, but there's little doubt that after a while, you'll snap and we all know what follows.

You give up, you feel deprived and go berserk for all those forbidden foods.

That's when the weight comes on again with a vengeance. That's the same answer I'd give whether it was the cabbage soup diet, banana diet or Atkins.

I know some people swear by Atkins but let's look at what the nutritionists say.

Dr Susan Jebb, from the Medical Research Council's Human Nutrition Research Centre, has said the Atkins diet is nutritionally incomplete.

Carbohydrates are a source of essential vitamins and plant nutrients and have been shown to stave off heart disease.

There is evidence that eating too much protein can cause kidney damage and may lead the body to lose calcium and eating too much fat can double a woman's risk of breast cancer.

The side-effects of the diet are unpleasant, too: Constipation, wind, bad breath, headaches.

Only yesterday, a client told me that when she tried the Atkins diet, she felt exhausted all the time.

So is it worth trying?

The jury is still out - Atkins says carbohydrates overstimulate the production of insulin resulting in hunger and weight gain while the anti-Atkins lobby points to the health risks.

For all the risks, most people on Atkins don't keep up the restrictive diet long enough to sustain long-term damage and after a while, even Atkins allows you to reintroduce some carbohydrate.

But I still return to the point I made at the beginning: Atkins or not, you won't succeed in keeping your weight down unless you're allowed to eat all food (yes, including chocolate) in moderation any time you're hungry.

Another of my favourite sayings is: "A little of what you fancy does you good."

But notice three key phrases: "Moderation" and "when you're hungry"' and "little bit".

If you eat simply because you fancy eating, you'll gradually put on weight. If you eat past the point of satisfaction to the point of feeling stuffed, likewise, you'll put on weight.

Most of us probably eat too much carbohydrate in the form of high-calorie, sugary products devoid of any nutrients but there's no need to cut them out completely in order to lose weight.

That way, you gain a balanced diet for life, you'll lose weight and keep it off and eat like everyone else.

And even better, if you're not having too much of anything, you won't need to make any changes when the food scientists come up with their next scare story.

You can get support from Dr Judy Citron and her team of DietCoaches by joining her telephone weight-loss classes, right from your own home. "You lose weight and you're not on a diet. It's amazing." Phone free for more information on 0800 074 0260 or visit the web site at