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Atkins Diet Promotors Deny Death Claims by Doctors' Group

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WASHINGTON, Nov 21 (AFP) - Promoters of the fashionable high-protein, low carbohydrat Atkins Diet were in dispute Friday with a radical doctors group which has raised suspicions that the diet is linked to the deaths of some users.

Atkins issued a statement dismissing the group's claims as erroneous and said the group was guilty of the "shameless exploitation" of the deaths of some people to promote "its own vegan political" agenda.

The dispute blew up after the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) held a press conference here Thursday highlighting its concerns.

PCRM doctors said the diet has been linked to several deaths and had also caused adverse health effects.

The PCRM's Paul Robinson outlined concerns the group associated with the diet. He was flanked by family members of some of the deceased people who had been on the Atkins Diet.

Robinson called on the US health authorities to open an investigation into the deaths that he said were associated with the diet regime.

Neal Barnard, a fellow PCRM doctor, presented a preliminary report on the effects of the diet.

The PCRM report claimed to show that 42 percent of some 188 high protein dieters, who contacted the PCRM, had described an energy loss, 22 percent had experienced kidney problems including severe kidney infections, and 20 percent had reported heart-related problems.

"We cannot affirm that this regime led to death," Barnard said, but he said there was enough evidence to merit an inquiry as enough people had reported health problems to spark concern.

However, Atkins Health and Information Services said "the PCRM appears to be exploiting the obesity and diabetes crisis in this country to further its own vegan political and philosophical agenda, regardless of the scientific evidence."

"We are also stunned by PCRM's reckless disregard of scientific and medical protocols in assembling their pseudo scientific so-called study," said an Atkins statement.

"All of us at Atkins are deeply disturbed by the PCRM's shameless exploitation of people who have struggled through personal tragedies."

The diet backers said numerous medical studies have supported the safety of its regime.

Besides the death of a teenager, the doctors' group reported the case of a 53-year-old man who developed a fatal artery blockage after over two years on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet.

The PCRM also highlighted the death of a 41-year-old woman who died suddenly from a heart attack while on the diet.

Robert Atkins, who died at the start of the year, perfected his diet from research started in 1972. He was one of the first doctors to recommend the elimination of starchy foods, fruit and vegetables in preferance for meat and fatter foods, a concept that cardiologists have criticised.



COPYRIGHT 2003 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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