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Atkins Diet Plan -- Are Low Carb Diets Doomed?

According to Veronica Atkins, the widow of Dr. Robert Atkins, the cause of his death was from falling on a slippery sidewalk with subsequent irreversible brain damage (from a CNN interview, February, 2004). Many critics of the Atkins Diet Plan claim the fall was due to a heart attack. This has not been verified to date.

He was 72 years old.

With all due respect to Veronica Atkins, I would like to assume Dr. Atkins did in fact suffer a fatal heart attack. This is in order to answer the following questions...

  • Is it right to use his death as evidence against the safety of the Atkins Diet Plan and other low Carb diets?

  • Does the recent bankruptcy of the Atkins Corporation provide evidence for the ineffectiveness of low Carb diets?

  • Many critics of low Carb diets say yes to both questions, but are they right?
  • The Atkins Diet Plan & Cardiovascular Risk

    Medically speaking, it is incorrect to associate Dr. Atkins' fatal heart attack to the use of his low Carb diet. There are two reasons for coming to this conclusion.

  • The increased risk for cardiovascular events associated with Atkins Diet Plan are not from restricting carbohydrates. Instead, the higher risk of cardiovascular events comes from replacing carbohydrates with foods high in saturated fats.

  • Dr. Atkins died at the age of 72. Beyond the age of 72, the risk for a cardiovascular event is the same for everyone. Granted, he was diagnosed with a cardiomyopathy (diseased heart muscle) when he was 69 and he suffered a heart attack in early 2004.

    However, both events occurred well above the age of 55...the cut off used for men to assign an increased risk for cardiovascular events to their first degree relatives. He was at an age which allows for the exclusion of any significant cardiovascular risk passing to his children.

  • From an epidemiology view point, risk behaviors like smoking or eating a high fat diet are no longer considered as primary contributors in Dr. Atkins' death.

    Yes, eating a high fat diet may have played a role, but this is only speculation. Because Dr. Atkins was 72 at the time of his death, no risk for similar events is passed onto his first degree relatives and the risk for cardiovascular events is the same for everyone at that age.

    With all due respect, he died of old age. To blame the Atkins Diet Plan and low Carb diets in general is medically irresponsible. At 72 years old, there are several factors to consider when faced with a fatal heart attack, including the aging process itself.

    Veronica Atkins was quoted by CNN...

    "My husbands health at the time of his death is a sad and distracting sideshow, taking time away from an intelligent debate of the known science."

    For a more detailed discussion on cardiovascular risk and age, please visit...

    Low Carb Bankruptcy -- Evidence for its Ineffectiveness?

    The only correct way to measure a diet's effectiveness (or lack there of) is to study the evidence provided by clinical trials. Recently, a few good studies have reported on the effectiveness of the Atkins Diet Plan and other low Carb diets.

    In short, low Carb diets, measured at one year, are safe and effective in helping dieters lose weight.

    Like all diet types, the evidence for long term effectiveness (2 to 5 years) is sparse and inconsistent.

    Cardiovascular risk increases for some dieters on low Carb diets, not because of the carbohydrate restriction, but because of the consumption of foods high in fat. Also, sticking with the low Carb diet appears to be tough for most dieters beyond one year.

    And lastly, low Carb diets that promote long stages of measurable ketosis may cause rapid weight loss that is too extreme. This is a great way to guarantee weight regain in the near future.


    Atkins death, from whatever the cause, can not be associated with his diet because he was 72 years old at the time of his death. Even if Dr. Atkins' death could be associated with his diet, no correlations could be made to similar low Carb diets, too much variation exists between them.

    Bankruptcy does not belong in a scientific discussion of a diet's effectiveness.

    To Healthy Living!

    Michael A. Smith, MD
    Chief Medical Consultant
    Diet Basics Web Site

    Dr. Smith is the Chief Medical Consultant for Diet Basics, a content rich weight loss website dedicated to all dieters. Please visit his site at...

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