Robert Coleman Atkins, MD (October 17, 1930 in Columbus, Ohio – April 17, 2003 in New York City) was an American physician and cardiologist, best known for the Atkins Nutritional Approach (or "Atkins Diet"), a popular but controversial way of dieting that entails close control of carbohydrate consumption, emphasizing protein and fat intake, including saturated fat in addition to leaf vegetables and dietary supplements.
When Atkins was aged 12 his family moved to Dayton, Ohio, where his father owned restaurants. Atkins graduated from the University of Michigan in 1951 and received a medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in 1955. He had internal medicine and cardiology residencies at hospitals affiliated with the University of Rochester and Columbia University, then specialized in cardiology and complementary medicine, opening an office in the Upper East Side in New York in 1959. He married his wife Veronica when he was 56.
In April 2002, Atkins suffered a heart attack, which the American Heart Association linked to the Atkins Diet. Atkins said his cardiac arrest was due to a chronic infection. His wife confirmed that he had coronary artery disease and was on heart-rhythm medication. In February 2003, journalist William Leith described him as "a trim, nice-looking 72-year-old".
On April 8, 2003, at age 72, a day after a major snowstorm in New York, Atkins slipped on ice while walking to work, hitting his head and causing bleeding around his brain. He lost consciousness and went into a coma on the way to the hospital. He spent nine days in intensive care, before dying of his injuries on April 17, 2003.
In 1963, when Atkins weighed 100 kg (224 pounds) due to a diet of junk food, he read a study of a low-starch diet in JAMA based on the work of Alfred W. Pennington and successfully lost weight by following it, which was repeated with 65 of his overweight patients. He appeared on the Tonight show in 1965, and his diet became known as the 'Vogue diet' after a 1970 Vogue article on it. He published Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution in 1972, which soon sold millions of copies.
He founded the Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in Manhattan, which had 87 employees in the 1990s, and where he said he treated over 50,000 patients, and founded Atkins Nutritionals in 1998 to promote his low-carbohydrate diet, with revenue of $100 million. He published Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution in 1992, which again became a best-seller.
Atkins argued that "carbohydrate is the bad guy", claiming that it causes the body to overproduce the hormone insulin, a condition called hyperinsulinism, which metabolises blood glucose and thus makes people feel hungry. He believed that diabetes and obesity are closely linked, calling them "di-obesity", the title of a book he was working on when he died.
In 1993 his medical license was suspended for four days due to his use of ozone therapy, injecting ozone into the bloodstream of a 77-year-old female cancer patient; she was treated in hospital for a brain embolism and a staff doctor reported Atkins to the state medical board. A judge ruled against the suspension.
- Atkins, Robert C. The Essential Atkins for Life Kit: The Next Level Pan Macmillan, 2003. ISBN 0-330-43250-8
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' Diet Planner M. Evans and Company, 2003 | Vermilion, 2003. ISBN 0-09-189877-3
- Atkins, Robert C. Atkins for Life: The Next Level New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003. ISBN 1-4050-2110-1
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution New York: Avon Books, 2002. ISBN 0-06-001203-X. | Vermilion, 2003. ISBN 0-09-188948-0
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution M. Evans and Company, 2002.
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' Age-Defying Diet St. Martin's Press, 2001, 2002
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' Vita-Nutrient Solution: Nature's Answers to Drugs Simon and Schuster, 1997
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' Quick & Easy New Diet Cookbook Simon and Schuster, 1997
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' New Carbohydrate Gram Counter. New York: M. Evans and Company, 1996. ISBN 0-87131-815-6
- Atkins, Robert C, Gare, Fran Dr. Atkins' New Diet Cookbook M. Evans and Company, 1994 | Vermilion, 2003. ISBN 0-09-188946-4
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution M. Evans and Company, 1992
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' Health Revolution Houghton Mifflin, 1988
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' Nutrition Breakthrough Bantam, 1981
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' SuperEnergy Diet Cookbook Signet, 1978
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' SuperEnergy Diet Bantam, 1978
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' Diet Cookbook Bantam, 1974
- Atkins, Robert C. Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution Bantam, 1972
- Atkins Nutritionals
- Larry King interview
- BBC Obituary: Dr Robert Atkins 17 April 2003
- Snopes on Doctor Atkins' death
- The Smoking Gun on Robert Atkins Medical Examination
- Robert Atkins at Find-A-Grave