Dr. Atkins' darkest secret

For acolytes of the late diet guru Robert C. Atkins, the news could scarcely have been worse. The good doctor, according to leaked copies of a confidential post-mortem medical report, weighed a substantial 255 pounds (115 kilograms) at death, making the six-foot 72-year old clinically obese.

Dr. Atkins, as many portly Canadians well know, was no ordinary weight-loss expert. His books, particularly the flagship Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, are perennial bestsellers. His big idea -- that drastically cutting back on carbohydrates while loading up on proteins can lead to quick, healthy and sustainable weight loss -- has spawned a global industry that generated an estimated $15-billion in sales last year in the United States alone.

If the man himself, who had followed his own dietary advice for 39 years, was obese and had a history of heart problems (as the leaked report also alleged), what did that say about his regimen? And what impact would this bombshell have on the Atkins social phenomenon, which has fast-food chains such as McDonald's proffering bacon, cheese and sausage with no bun or fries?

Numerous studies have compared the Atkins with other popular "crash" diets - high-carbohydrate, low-fat, a mixture of several approaches. Some of the recent ones have bolstered the Atkins case. But most nutritionists contend none of the quick-loss diets work particularly well or are especially healthy. The reason: People tend to view diet plans as short-term solutions to a problem that has as much to do with lifestyle as with food. Surely the best avenue to long-term health is not dieting of the Atkins or any other variety, but rather consistently moderate consumption of a variety of traditional foods, including grains, vegetables, proteins and fruit, combined with a more active lifestyle.

Fewer calories, more exercise; it's just common sense. But hard to practise, which is why diet books will keep selling like the sweetest of pastries, informs &to=http://www.globeandmail.com' target=_blank>Glob and Mail

The debate over Dr. Robert Atkins' popular high-fat, low-carb diet flared posthumously today when it was learned that Atkins himself was a bloated 258 pounds at his death. A city medical examiner's report filed after Atkins' 2003 death from a fall showed the 6-foot doctor was at a weight normally considered obese. A physicians group that is highly critical of the diet released details of the report, claiming the Atkins diet led to weight and heart troubles for its 72-year-old creator.

Atkins' allies immediately disputed that. The Atkins Physicians Council said the carbohydrate-shunning doctor gained more than 60 pounds through fluid retention in the eight days he spent in a coma before dying last April. He had slipped on an icy street and hit his head. Atkins weighed 195 pounds when he was admitted, the group's chairman said.

"Critically ill patients, when sustained on fluids in the hospital, gain weight," said Dr. Stuart Trager, chairman of the Atkins Physicians Council, a group affiliated with the Atkins diet empire. "He was grossly swollen, so much so that his family and associates barely recognized him," &to=http://www.chron.com' target=_blank>Chron.com

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