Atkins Lawsuit Moves Ahead as Stay Is Lifted
A six-month-old stay on a high-profile lawsuit against Atkins Nutritionals was automatically lifted by the company’s emergence from bankruptcy protection earlier this month. The suit, which alleges that the high-fat Atkins diet caused a severe coronary blockage and a near-fatal cardiac event in Florida businessman Jody Gorran, will now go forward in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. PCRM is providing legal help to Gorran, but is not a party in the lawsuit.
Following extensive reorganization in bankruptcy, Atkins Nutritionals has emerged as a purveyor of power bars, pulling back from its aggressive promotion of the high-fat, meat-heavy diet formulated by founder Robert Atkins. Numerous scientific studies, including recent findings by researchers at Oxford University, have linked low-carb diets to heart disease and other serious illnesses. After a steady decline in popularity, the Atkins company filed for bankruptcy protection in July of last year.
“I want to warn people that this fatty, meaty diet can lead to heart problems,” says Gorran. “It could kill you.” Gorran filed suit against Atkins Nutritionals in May of 2004, and the suit withstood numerous legal challenges in Florida state court.
After more than two years on the meat-heavy Atkins diet, Gorran’s cholesterol skyrocketed and he developed a near-fatal artery blockage requiring a stent. A heart scan done prior to Gorran embarking on the Atkins diet revealed no hint of blockage. Gorran is asking that all Atkins products and books be required to carry warning labels. He is seeking less than $15,000 in damages.
Attorney Dan Kinburn, Esq., associate general counsel for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, successfully defended the case against the Atkins company’s attempts to have it dismissed in County Court for Palm Beach County, Fla. Mr. Kinburn will continue to represent Gorran in federal court.
“Low-carbohydrate diets push dieters to avoid healthy foods, like rice, beans, and pasta, while ignoring the risks of high-cholesterol, high-fat meat and cheese,” said PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. “Atkins pushed the deadly myth that cholesterol and saturated fat don’t matter.” PCRM is encouraging dieters who may have had health problems while on a low-carbohydrate diet to register online at www.AtkinsDietAlert.org.