Around three million people in the UK are estimated to have tried the controversial Atkins diet, a poll has suggested.

According to the poll, which was conducted by YouGov on behalf of ITV, 7% of men and 10% of women have tried the diet, reports BBC News Online.

The Atkins diet, launched by the late Robert Atkins in the 1970s, is a low-carbohydrate diet that has gained popularity in recent years.

Despite the diet’s popularity, many dieticians believe the diet may be harmful in the long term, but so far there is little evidence to support their warnings.

The poll found that only one in a hundred people following the Atkins diet were convinced by such warnings. But a half of all people following the diet say more research is needed into the long-term health effects of the diet.

"The public's experience is that Atkins is more effective than conventional diets in helping people to lose weight but causes more side-effects," Peter Kellner, the chairman of YouGov, was quoted by the BBC as saying.

Nutritionists recommend that people wishing to lose weight should follow a balanced, calorie-controlled diet, combined with regular exercise.

Around two-fifths of the UK population are currently dieting, and 58% have tried to diet in the last five years, the poll found.