American doctor and cardiologist, best known for his unconventional and controversial
A tkins first proposed his high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet in 1972 in his book, Dr. Atkin's Diet Revolution: The High Calorie Way to Stay Thin Forever. This radical approach in the 1970s told dieters they could eat as much red meat, eggs, cheese, and other high-fat foods as they desired but not eat pasta, cereal, bread or other carbohydrates. The diet was relatively popular as a fad diet, but "low-carb" would not become a buzz word for several decades. Even though it was originally designed as a diet to maintain blood-sugar levels for diabetics, it became a popular weight-loss strategy that started the "low-carb" movement.
Over the next twenty years, Atkins founded the Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine and continued to write new books. However, it was the revised versions of his original book that he published in 1992 and 1999, respectively, that brought the diet guru back into the public eye (Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution: Revised and Updated). Atkins faced intense criticism about the updated books, with many health organizations, doctors, and dieticians attacking the lack of balance prescribed in his diet. Major critics included the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the American Heart Association. Despite these various denunciations of the diet, the book was wildly popular: its various versions spent five years on the New York Times's bestseller list and earned a place among the top fifty bestselling books in history (Womble and Wadden 2002).
Even in the face of such controversy and criticism, according to the British Medical Journal's obituary of Atkins, the various editions of his New Diet Revolution book sold 12 million copies, making it the bestselling fad-diet book ever written. In addition to the success of his books, Atkins saw more than 600,000 patients since receiving his medical degree in 1955; he also had his own syndicated radio program, Your Health Choices, and his own monthly newsletter, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution.
Atkins' death in 2003, attributed to a heart attack, was used by many critics of his diet as evidence of the danger of high-fat, high-protein diets. While there has been much controversy over the true cause of his death, as well as the report that Atkins weighed 258 pounds at his death, no consensus has been reached about the effects of his diet on his own health.
SLG/Sarah Gardiner See also Banting; Sugar Busters; Zone Diet
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