- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Dr. Robert Atkins, whose popular diet stresses protein-rich meat and cheese over carbohydrates, weighed 258 pounds at his death and had a history of heart disease, a newspaper reported yesterday.

Dr. Atkins died in April at age 72 after being injured in a fall on an icy street. Before his death, he had suffered a heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a report by the city medical examiner.

At 258 pounds, the 6-foot Dr. Atkins would have qualified as obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s body-mass index calculator.

Diet is a potential factor in heart disease, but infections also can contribute to it.

Last month, the diet guru’s widow, Veronica Atkins, demanded an apology from New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg after he called her late husband “fat.”

She told the Journal that she was outraged that the report on her husband’s health had been made public. “I have been assured by my husband’s physicians that my husband’s health problems late in life were completely unrelated to his diet or any diet,” she said.

The medical examiner’s report was given to the Journal by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group that advocates vegetarianism.

Stuart Trager, chairman of the Atkins Physicians Council in New York, told the Journal that Dr. Atkins’ heart disease stemmed from cardiomyopathy, a condition thought to have resulted from a viral infection.

Dr. Atkins’ weight was due to bloating associated with his condition and the time he spent in a coma after his head injury, Mr. Trager said. Dr. Atkins had been much slimmer most of his life, Mr. Trager added.

Yesterday, the medical examiner’s office said only that Dr. Atkins died of a head injury from the fall. “I can’t comment on people’s previous conditions. It’s against the law,” said spokeswoman Ellen Borakove.

Owing to family objections to an autopsy, the medical examiner had conducted only “an external exam” and a review of Dr. Atkins’ hospital records, Ms. Borakove said.

She said a report had been sent to a doctor in Nebraska who had requested it, and that he apparently gave it to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

It later was discovered that the doctor was not “the treating physician” and should not have had access to the report, Ms. Borakove said. The medical examiner’s office plans to complain to Nebraska health officials, she added.

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