Washington, Nov. 21 (Reuters): A nutrition advocacy group warned today that the popular Atkins diet may cause heart disease and could have killed a teen-age dieter.
It urged the US government to monitor the high-fat weight loss approach to see if it indeed causes heart disease.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine stressed it could not prove the diet had hurt or killed anyone. But one dieter said he believed the approach clogged his arteries and the parents of a teenager who died while on the diet also blamed her meat-heavy regimen.
The PCRM called on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor diets and check for signs that the Atkins and other high-fat, high-protein diets may be harming people’s health.
“You can never say this diet caused this death,” PCRM director Dr Neal Barnard cautioned. He said the CDC should monitor large groups over time to see if there was an association.
The CDC had no immediate comment. Two federal health officials who asked not to be named said it might be possible to incorporate the information into existing surveys on diet, lifestyle and health.
Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. said its diet was safe.
“There is no logic and no science to support any association between these individuals and the ANA (Atkins Nutritional Approach),” said Colette Heimowitz, vice-president of education and research for the company.
The Atkins diet has made headlines around the world with an approach that flies in the face of most medical advice. It is based on a theory developed by Dr Robert Atkins, who died in April after a fall, that carbohydrates make people fat.
It encourages dieters to shun bread, pasta, fruit and many vegetables in favoUr of meat, butter and other fatty food.
“What I contend is that the Atkins diet gave me heart disease,” Jody Gorran, a 53-year-old Florida businessman, said at a news conference organised by PCRM. He said his arteries clogged and cholesterol shot up while on the diet.
Paul and Lisa Huskey of Columbia, Missouri, say their 16-year-old daughter, Rachel, died of a heart arrhythmia in 2000 while on the diet. Dr Paul Robinson, a pediatrician at the hospital where Rachel died, said the diet could have caused her death by leaching calcium and potassium from her body.
Many doctors and the American Heart Association have warned that the diet could be dangerous. The Heart Association advocates a diet based on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. It warned that over time the Atkins diet and similar approaches could raise cholesterol.
Other experts have said the diet might also increase the risk of kidney disease and the PCRM adds osteoporosis and colon cancer to the list of risks. The PCRM, which advocates a strict vegetarian diet, has set up an online registry at www.atkinsdietalert.org for people to offer complaints about the diet.