Robert C. Atkins, M.D., World-Famous Nutrition Expert
and Best-Selling Author, Dies at 72
NEW YORK, NY—April 17, 2003—Dr. Robert C. Atkins, one of the pioneers of complementary medicine in the United States and one of the most famous, successful and enduring nutrition experts of the last 40 years, died on April 17, 2003 in New York City at the age of 72. Dr. Atkins was the founder of The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine and Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. He also authored more than a dozen health and nutrition books, including Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, one of the 50 best-selling books of all time, and Atkins for Life. Released earlier this year, Atkins for Life quickly joined Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution on The New York Times bestseller list. The cause of death was related to head trauma from an accident that occurred while Dr. Atkins was on his way to work.
The serious snowstorm that hit New York City the day before the incident, along with unseasonably cold temperatures, left streets and sidewalks slippery. As was his daily habit, Dr. Atkins walked from his home to his office, a distance of about one mile. At approximately 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 8, 2003, he fell and hit his head, suffering severe head trauma. Keith Berkowitz, M.D., a colleague at The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine, was arriving at work at the same time, and was able to rush Dr. Atkins to the hospital within minutes. The doctors at the hospital emergency room determined that Dr. Atkins had suffered a subdural hematoma and that surgery was required to remove the blood clot from his brain. He survived for several days but eventually succumbed to complications.
Changing the way America eats
Named one of People magazine’s 25 “Most Intriguing People” at the end of the 20th Century and one of Time magazine’s “People Who Mattered” at the end of last year, Dr. Atkins was a cardiologist with a pioneering perspective on nutrition and health. His controlled carbohydrate approach to weight management and the treatment and prevention of disease successfully challenged conventional medical and nutritional science. In recent years, many influential researchers, physicians and Washington, D.C., policy makers began to embrace the principles upon which the Atkins protocols are based as they saw the United States moving ever deeper into the worst epidemics of obesity and diabetes the world has ever seen, suggesting that conventional medicine’s low-fat approach to the American diet may be ineffective.
In the past two years, a new body of research conducted at such prestigious institutions as Duke University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Connecticut, the University of Washington, the Veterans Administration Hospital of Philadelphia and Long Island Jewish Medical Center as well as at several other institutions under the sponsorship of the National Institutes of Health, has started to offer independent scientific support for Dr. Atkins’ own 40 years of clinical experience. The Atkins Nutritional ApproachTM is today becoming one of the mainstream tools used by physicians around the nation to control obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other medical conditions.
Born and raised in Ohio, Dr. Atkins majored in pre-med at the University of Michigan and then received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical School in 1955. After a residency in cardiology, he moved to New York City where he later founded The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world.
Along with a full patient schedule, Dr. Atkins championed the natural healing arts as a rational and effective alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and surgery for many debilitating illnesses. He helped to bring national attention and credibility to complementary medicine as a serious and effective medical approach. Dr. Atkins was also a prolific writer and sought-after speaker.
In an interview with Biography magazine, Dr. Atkins recalled how in 1963, he had his picture taken for an I.D. card—and was shocked by the results. He had gained about 30 pounds during medical school. After several unsuccessful attempts at losing weight he decided to try a controlled carbohydrate diet, which he had read about in the Journal of the American Medical Association. From his own success, Dr. Atkins began to formalize his nutritional approach.
After a decade of treating patients utilizing the Atkins Nutritional ApproachTM, he wrote the first of 13 books, including Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution (1972), Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution (1992), an updated 2002 edition of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and Atkins for Life (2003), which fully describes the Atkins Nutritional ApproachTM. Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution has been among the top 10 books on The New York Times bestseller list for almost six years, selling in excess of 14 million copies worldwide. It is also now one of the top 50 best-selling books of all time. Atkins for Life has been No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list every week since its January 2003 release.
Dr. Atkins had been supervising a team of people working on multiple writing projects, including a major work addressing the benefit of the Atkins Nutritional ApproachTM to help stem the epidemic of diabetes. Convinced that obesity and diabetes are twin epidemics, Dr. Atkins had intended to dedicate a great deal of his time over the next few years to challenging the conventional wisdom on diabetes prevention and care, much as he had done with obesity.
In addition to his bestsellers, other books include: Dr. Atkins’ New Carbohydrate Gram Counter (revised 2002), Dr. Atkins’ Age-Defying Diet Revolution (2001), Dr. Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution: Nature’s Answer to Drugs (1998), Dr. Atkins’ Quick and Easy New Diet Cookbook (1997—coauthored by his wife, Veronica), Dr. Atkins’ Health Revolution (1988), Dr. Atkins’ Nutrition Breakthrough (1981), Dr. Atkins’ Super Energy Cookbook (1978), Dr. Atkins’ Super Energy Diet (1975) and Dr. Atkins’ Diet Cookbook (revised 1994). Dr. Atkins’ books have been translated into more than 20 languages.
As a leader in both natural medicine and nutritional pharmacology, Dr. Atkins built an international reputation. He was the recipient of the World Organization of Alternative Medicine’s Recognition of Achievement Award and was the National Health Federation’s Man of the Year. Dr. Atkins was also the cofounder and past president of the Foundation for the Advancement of Innovative Medicine. He also hosted “Your Health Choices,” a nationally syndicated radio show, and was the author of the national monthly newsletter, “Dr. Atkins’ Health Revelations.”
In 1989, Dr. Atkins founded Atkins Complementary Formulations (changed to Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. in 1998) with two key goals in mind: 1) to provide low carbohydrate foods and dietary supplements to a growing population of Atkins followers and 2) to generate funds to invest in controlled carbohydrate nutritional science.
Three years ago, Dr. Atkins assembled a team of people, including doctors, Ph.D. food scientists and nutritionists, and business professionals to drive Atkins Nutritionals forward. Today, Atkins Nutritionals is a fast-growing multimillion dollar enterprise, providing a broad range of convenience foods, supplements, baked goods, snacks and condiments designed to serve the millions of Americans who have adopted the controlled carbohydrate lifestyle.
Dr. Atkins and Veronica Atkins established The Dr. Robert C. Atkins Foundation in 1999, thus far endowing it with $3 million in grants. Under the terms of Dr. Atkins’ will, a substantial percentage of his bequest goes to the Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to providing funding for research and education on the role of controlled carbohydrate nutritional protocols in treating and preventing a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. Unrestricted research grants have already been awarded to a number of institutions, including Duke University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Ball State University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
“Dr. Atkins had been quietly investing millions of his own dollars in the Foundation to fund significant ongoing scientific research,” explains Paul Wolff, chairman/chief executive officer of Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. “Dr. Atkins had come to realize that his theories and years of clinical experience had generated a new level of scientific awareness that would become his legacy. He wanted to ensure that the nutrition revolution that he had begun in 1972 would continue. The Foundation ensures that his legacy of hope and health will endure as a result of his personal financial commitment.
“As a result of his lifelong commitment to good health, controlled carbohydrate nutrition is now a force in this country. His legacy will be the millions of people following the Atkins Nutritional ApproachTM as a healthy lifestyle and the growing number of doctors and other health care practitioners who recommend the approach to their patients,” says Wolff.
In addition to his wife, Veronica, Dr. Atkins is survived by his mother, Norma Atkins