Dieters blame popular program for heart disease, death
Reuters News Service
WASHINGTON -- Jody Gorran was proud of his 32-inch waistline -- until a heart scan showed an artery had become almost entirely blocked during the two years he was on the Atkins diet.
Lisa Huskey was happy about being on a diet with her 16-year-old daughter, Rachel, until Rachel dropped dead from a heart arrhythmia in class.
Both say the high-fat, high-protein approach advocated by the Atkins diet was responsible.
"What I contend is that the Atkins diet gave me heart disease," Gorran said at a news conference sponsored by the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine.
The Atkins diet has sparked both admiration and debate with its radical approach based on the theory that carbohydrates make people fat.
It calls for a stringent break-in period designed to induce a metabolic change called ketosis. Dieters are advised to shun carbohydrates in favor of fats and meat.
The body, overloading on fat and protein, theoretically breaks down fat cells for energy and sheds pounds of water as it struggles to get rid of toxic breakdown products.
Studies have shown the diet -- like many diets -- can help people lose weight.
But many doctors and the American Heart Association have repeatedly warned that the Atkins approach could be dangerous because it is too high in fat and protein and too low in fiber and vitamins.
Anyone who has even been on this diet can tell you they spend the first few days in the bathroom, urinating," said Dr. Paul Robinson, director of adolescent medicine at the University of Missouri hospital, where Rachel Huskey was taken.
The body is shedding water to clear out the breakdown products from fat in the diet, Robinson said at the news conference. The danger comes because the process pulls calcium and potassium from the blood.
Robinson said Rachel's calcium and potassium levels were abnormally low. "These are very important electrolytes in regulating heartbeat," he said.
"Adolescents, particularly, should not go on this diet, until there is more research," added Robinson, who published a paper in the Southern Medical Journal about the case.
Dr. Richard Fleming, a cardiologist who has studied high-fat diets, attacked the premise that carbohydrates make people any fatter than any other food.He said the high fat content of the Atkins diet could worsen heart disease through raised cholesterol and inflamed arteries. http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/nation/2238309