Atkins Nutritionals Admits Diet May Be Dangerous
Lawyers for Diet Giant Concede in Court that Diet May Be Dangerous; Attorneys Attempt to Quash Release of Potentially Damaging Documents, Studies on A
PALM BEACH, Fla.—Seeking to quash the release of what are sure to be damaging and embarrassing documents on the safety and efficacy of the famed Atkins diet, lawyers for Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., admitted last Monday in court that they are willing to “assume the diet is dangerous”—the first public admission of any kind that dieters following the Atkins Diet may face real and severe health risks.
In a hearing before Palm Beach County Judge Susan Lubitz on March 14, Atkins’ lawyers argued that discovery—the pretrial exchange of information between parties under court supervision—on matters relating to the diet’s safety was unnecessary because they were prepared to concede that the regimen does pose health risks for purposes of an upcoming motion. Atkins’ attorneys sought to avoid discovery, asking the court instead to move directly to arguments as to why the case should be dismissed.
Judge Lubitz rejected Atkins’ argument, ruling that she needed to hear the plaintiff’s discovery requests first. She ordered discovery to proceed as part of the lawsuit filed last year by Jody Gorran, a Florida businessman who developed near-fatal heart disease after two years on the high-fat, low-carbohydrate Atkins Diet.
Attorneys for Atkins now face a March 29 court-ordered deadline to respond to Mr. Gorran’s motion to require Atkins to produce relevant documents and information dealing with the diet’s safety and on the marketing of the Atkins Diet books and food products as safe.
“Atkins’ conspiracy of silence is about to crack wide open,” said Dan Kinburn, Gorran’s lead attorney and senior counsel for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “We contend that Atkins has known for years, if not decades, that the regimen poses a real danger to significant numbers of dieters and has suppressed that information for commercial gain.”
Among the information requested in discovery, said Kinburn, are the complete medical records of the late Dr. Robert Atkins, inventor of the Atkins Diet. Atkins died in April 2003 in a fall outside his New York offices. Medical records taken by the NY medical examiners office show that Atkins was overweight at the time of his death, tipping the scales at nearly 260 pounds, and may have had cardiovascular disease.
There has long been speculation that Atkins suffered from coronary artery disease. A year before his death, he suffered a cardiac arrest while waiting for breakfast. Atkins and his private physician issued statements claiming that the episode was caused by cardiomyopathy, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and not the result of arterial blockage.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.