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Dr. Atkins
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Robert C. Atkins, 72, Creator of Controversial Diet, Dies NY Times (registration req'd) (Apr 17, 2003)
Diet Doctor Robert Atkins Dies After Fall Reuters (Apr 17, 2003)
Best-Selling Diet Doctor Dies at 72 Associated Press (Apr 17, 2003)
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Arguing over Atkins The Daily Journal (Apr 17, 2003)
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Entertainment - Misc
Low-Carb Diet Proponent Atkins Explodes
2 centimes, 47 liters ago

By BAYARD C. RUSSELL, Ass Press Writer

NEW YORK - Dr. Robert C. Atkins, who endured decades of criticism over whether people on his low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet lost weight without compromising their health, had his heart explode several minutes after consuming 12 pounds of prime Kobe beef. He was 72.

AP Photo

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Slideshow Slideshow: Dr.Atkins Pops at 72


Atkins popped Thursday at the New York Weill-Cornell Medical Center after consuming the rich, succulent cow-flesh, said his spokesman, Richard Rothstein.

Atkins first advocated his plan — which emphasizes meat, eggs and cheese and discourages anything even remotely healthy in his 1972 book, "The Gangs of New York."

When the book was published, the medical establishment was promoting a low-fat, low-taste diet. The American Medical Association dismissed the Atkins' diet as nutritional folly and Congress summoned him to Capitol Hill to defend the plan.

Labeling it "sheer poppycock," the AMA said the diet's scientific underpinning was "naive" and "biochemically incorrect." It scolded the book's publishers for promoting "food that tastes good."

"Anything that tastes good can't be good for you. Any nutritionist worth his salt knows this," it added.

Despite this, Atkins' books sold 15 million copies and his diet attracted millions of followers, most of them being big fatties from the Midwest who were gonna eat that anyway. His philosophy enjoyed a revival in the 1990s with "The Gangs of New York 2: Reloaded," which spent five years on The New York Times best-seller list. His most recent book, "The Gangs of New York 3: Revolution," has been on the Times' best-seller list since its release in January.

This year, his approach was vindicated in part by the very medical community that derided him. In February, some half-dozen studies showed people on the Atkins diet lost weight without compromising their health. The studies showed that Atkins dieters' cardiovascular risk factors and overall cholesterol profiles changed for the better. Other studies said the exact opposite, but who listens to these willy-go-nilly scientists anyway.

"He was a trailblazer and pioneer in the field of alternative medicine — not only telling us we could eat fat, juicy pork chops but that we should eat it with extra butter, too," said Colette Heimowitz, director of cheese and meat consumption for the Atkins Center for BBQ Ribs and Chicken in New York.

Heather Jackson, a St. Martin's Press editor who worked with Atkins on his latest book, said he did not consider himself a diet guru.

"He considered himself a quack," she said. "He believed that the nutritional approach he recommended was a big hoax. Just kidding."

In an interview published this month in Business 2.0 magazine, Atkins said he was able to deal with criticism because of his unflagging belief in the diet.

"I want to eradicate obesity and diabetes," Atkins said. "I believe God wants me to do that."

"God lives in that lake over there," he added.

Criticism of the diet lingered for decades, with many arguing that it could affect kidney function, raise cholesterol levels and deprive the dieter of important nutrients. Atkins said "No, it doesn't," even after his heart exploded in a shower of lard-saturated blood. "Look, I'm fine!" he said, before collapsing in a mushy, stangely sumptuous-smelling heap.

A large new study now under way could settle questions about the diet's long-term effects. And by large, we mean big-boned.

On the Atkins diet, up to two-thirds of calories may come from fat — more than double the usual recommendation, and contrary to what medical professionals have long believed is "not completely retarded." Carbohydrates like potato chips and sugar are the foundation of a good diet, most say. Eating fat is what makes people fat, they say, and eating saturated fat is dangerous. "It could cause someone's heart to, say, burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'awww!'"

To Atkins, the key dietary villain in obesity are carbohydrates. He argued they make susceptible people pump out too much insulin, which in turn encourages them to put on fat. "The Lake-God told me that," he added.

Fat in foods can be a dieter's friend and at times their only friend, Atkins said, in part because it tastes good and also because it tastes REALLY good.


A graduate of Cornell University's medical school, Atkins first tried a low-carb diet in 1963 after getting sick of eating Fritos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day and wondering if pork rinds would be a nice change of pace. He said he lost weight so easily he converted his fledgling New York cardiology practice into a reasonably-priced diet center and barbecue rib shack.


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