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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE September 29, 2004

NEA Sells Out to Atkins

Doctors Want Full Disclosure, Launch Letter-Writing Campaign

WASHINGTON—PCRM is calling on the National Education Association and three other education organizations to provide a full financial disclosure of their controversial new contracts permitting Atkins Nutritionals to market its diet information to school children. The NEA, the New York State United Teachers, Public Schools for the 21st Century, and the National Association of State Boards of Education have reportedly struck deals with Atkins Nutritionals, the commercial arm of the low-carb fad diet empire.

In a letter to each organization, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine faults the associations for mortgaging children’s health in financial deals with a fad diet company. PCRM will launch a national letter-writing campaign on its Web site tomorrow.

The Atkins diet emphasizes meat and other fatty foods and is low on healthy carbohydrate-rich foods, such as rice, that are staples in countries where populations are generally slim, healthy, and long-lived.

“The Atkins diet is a terrible message for kids, and the NEA should be ashamed of itself for selling out,” said PCRM President Neal D. Barnard, M.D. “Children have been repeatedly exploited in marketing arrangements with the dairy industry, Coca-Cola, Krispy Kreme donuts, and fast-food chains, and it’s time for this to stop.”

Low-carb diets have been condemned by many health organizations, including the American Heart Association, because they often lead to high cholesterol levels and other problems.

“For the NEA to team up with a fad diet company is irresponsible,” Dr. Barnard said. “At the very time that studies have linked low-carb diets to high cholesterol levels, heart disease, and kidney abnormalities, the NEA has apparently cut a deal with the group that pushes this dangerous diet.”

“This arrangement is just as unscrupulous as the deals schools have made with candy and soft drink companies—deals that will likely be targeted by upcoming legal challenges,” said PCRM Chief Legal Counsel Mindy Kursban.

News agencies have recently reported that Atkins Nutritionals has fallen on hard times as interest in low-carb diets has waned and as health risks of low-carb diets have come to light. The company is evidently looking for ways to rebound, according to PCRM.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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