February 2004    
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Atkins Was Grossly Overweight and Sick But the Media Loves the Dead Guy


On Tuesday, February 10, 2004 the fall of the Atkins Empire began with the publication of a medical report on Atkins' body by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, the City of New York.  This report was obtained legally and without deception by Richard Flemming, MD, a cardiologist from Omaha, Nebraska.  The report was then sent to Neal Barnard, MD, of the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine.  This organization gave the report to the Wall Street Journal and they made these findings public with an added note from the Journal that with a weight of 258 pounds and a height of 6 feet he would be properly classified as "obese." That week I appeared on several national TV and radio shows, and was quoted in newspapers worldwide, including the New York Times – taking the position that his medical report was fair game because he was an icon in the diet industry, and the lessons learned from his poor health would save lives.


Atkins Medical Report


Since I am a friend of Dr. Barnard and a diametrically opposed opponent of the Atkins philosophy, it was natural for me to take the position that these findings are important and should be public.  They are important because the health and appearance of this diet guru reflect the merit of his advice.  The man was grossly overweight for all of the 10 years that I knew him and I had met with him personally on several occasions.  He looked very unhealthy to me every time we met – and his medical reports and the history that has been released by his organization confirm this.  At the very least he suffered from severe heart damage known as cardiomyopathy.  The Atkins organization says this was due to a virus – this is possible, but is an extremely rare cause for this condition.  The most common reason for this severe loss of heart muscle is coronary artery disease due to a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet.  In April of 2002 he suffered a cardiac arrest and almost died.  Information from the Atkins web site tells us that he had coronary artery disease and suggests he recently had an angioplasty.  His history also includes congestive heart failure and hypertension.  The medical examiner's report says he had a heart attack also – but I have no other history to confirm this.  He is reported to have died from head injuries from a fall on the ice.


The Atkins organization denies he was grossly overweight and claims he weighed between 180 and 195 pounds.  They say his medical records indicate he weighed 195 pounds just before he entered the hospital at the time of his death.  They claim the additional weight, totaling 258 pounds reported by the medical examiner, was from fluid accumulation during his 9 days of hospitalization prior to his death.  That would mean 60 to 80 pounds of fluid,  equal to 8 to 10 gallons of water, would have been added to his body.  Any medical doctor who allowed this much fluid accumulation in a patient in 9 days should have his medical practices reviewed.


Michael Fumento of Scripps Howard News Service obtained the records that reported on Atkins' weight of 195 pounds. He wrote, "The 'records' were merely part of a page from an echocardiogram report, not admittance documents as one might expect. Conspicuously, the blood pressure numbers were covered."…  "The echocardiogram report did show Atkins' weight at 195, but the head of the echocardiography laboratory told me they don't even have a scale. 'Sometimes we get the weight from ER, and sometimes we don't and don't put anything down,' he said. 'Do you ever just estimate?' I asked. 'Yup,' he replied." 


See complete Fumento Article


At the present time the media coverage of this story is largely in defense of Atkins.  Some of the press has labeled the release of the report of his poor health as a "Vegan Agenda," and Mrs. Atkins, on Dateline (TV show), Friday, February 20, 2004, said those speaking against her husband are the "vegetarian Taliban" and "they're nasty."


No harm is intended for the Atkins family, but all this controversy is an opportunity to save countless lives of people who fail to understand the truth about human nutrition, and especially those who have been mislead by Dr. Atkins and his organization.  If people keep talking about the science behind low and high carbohydrate diets, then the evidence will eventually come out.  My hope is that the fight escalates.  For those of you who think maligning a dead man is in bad taste – think again – Atkins' image is alive and well on TV, radio, newspapers, fast food restaurant menus, and supermarket shelves – making $100 million a year for Atkins Nutritionals Inc., selling people worldwide a program that results in short term weight loss (at best), is nearly impossible to follow, and eventually causes extremely poor health – the diet's founder, Dr. Atkins, is one important piece of the proof.  When the Atkins business stops promoting him, I will stop criticizing him.

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