Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Dr. Robert Atkins, proponent of the low-carbohydrate diet, died of a heart attack.
Examples: [Collected via e-mail, 2004]
Origins: Our sense of the quirky appears to thirst for the irony of life, those strange outcomes that run contrary to what we conclude should happen. It is thus pleasing to envision the doctor who led so many to a permissive diet regimen as having been felled by the very health advice he touted to millions (and which made him millions in return).
Famed nutritionist and author Dr. Robert Atkins died on
Robert Atkins has been termed "the apostle of protein gluttony as a passport to health, wholesomeness and the perfect figure." He came to
The hungry flocked to the Atkins Diet standard as soon as it was raised. It is estimated
It is known Robert Atkins did indeed weather a heart attack during his lifetime. In April 2002, the diet guru issued a statement saying he was recovering from cardiac arrest related to a heart infection he had suffered from "for a few years." He said it was "in no way related to diet."
However, revelations in February 2004 from the city medical examiner's report let slip the information that Atkins had suffered a heart attack, congestive heart failure, and hypertension, before his death. The report was given to the Journal by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group that advocates vegetarianism. Because the medical examiner's office is claiming this information was circulated in error, it may not be possible at this time to determine if what was in that report referred to events that immediately preceded (and therefore might have caused) the doctor's death, or if they were in reference to damage done over the course of a lifetime. (The report had been sent to a doctor in Nebraska who requested it. It was later discovered the person it was sent to was not "the treating physician" and so should not have had access to the report.) At present, the medical examiner's office will only say Atkins died of a head injury from the fall. "I can't comment on people's previous conditions. It's against the law," said spokeswoman Ellen Borakove.
It needs be kept in mind that even if the medical examiner's office does become more forthcoming, it still may not be able to answer the question of whether a heart attack brought about the demise of
The state of Robert Atkins' health is open to debate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's
However, Atkins' widow and Dr. Stuart Trager, the spokesperson for Atkins Physicians Council, both contend Robert Atkins weighed less than
Thanks to his
Barbara "weighty matters" Mikkelson
Last updated: 11 February 2004
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