Diet guru Dr. Robert Atkins dead at 72
“See, that’s a big mistake . to tell people to restrict calories,” Atkins told CNN in January. “They lose the weight, they feel fine, then they get to their goal weight and they still have 60 more years to live, and are they going to go hungry for all 60 years?”
Atkins was a cardiologist and businessman, selling supplements and food on his Web site and at the Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine.
All of his best-selling diet books promoted the same philosophy: a diet high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates is a sure way to lose weight.
“It’s not that it needs to be low-calorie. As long as you cut out the carbohydrate the weight loss is automatic,” Atkins said.
His philosophy of loading up on meat and cheese instead of breads, pastas, and even fruits and vegetables, went against the nutritional grain among mainstream dieticians.
“The weight loss comes primarily from water,” said Kathleen Zelman, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, among Atkins’ critics over the years. “But you can also burn muscle, and body protein can be in the form of muscle — your heart muscle.”
Studies over the years have both supported and debunked Atkins’ theories. Nonetheless, millions have followed his advice.
Atkins was born and raised in Ohio. He developed his diet system through personal experience.
He majored in pre-med at the University of Michigan, then received his medical degree from Cornell University in 1955. After his residency in cardiology, he moved to New York City.
According to a statement released Thursday by his representatives, Atkins was shocked by a photograph taken of him in 1963 that made him realize he had gained 30 pounds since the days before medical school.
“After several unsuccessful attempts at losing weight he decided to try a controlled carbohydrate diet, which he had read about in the Journal of the American Medical Association,” the statement says. “From his own success, Dr. Atkins began to formalize his nutritional approach.”
In addition to operating his New York-based center, in which he kept a full patient schedule, he also established a foundation in 1999 to support research and education on how limiting carbohydrate intake can help treat and prevent a wide range of illnesses.
He is survived by his wife, Veronica, and his mother, Norma.