Robert Atkins (physician)

Robert Coleman Atkins (October 17, 1930  April 17, 2003) was an American physician and cardiologist, best known for the Atkins Diet, which requires close control of carbohydrate consumption and emphasizes protein and fat as the primary sources of dietary calories in addition to a controlled number of carbohydrates from vegetables.

Robert Atkins
Robert Coleman Atkins

(1930-10-17)October 17, 1930
DiedApril 17, 2003(2003-04-17) (aged 72)
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Cornell University
OccupationInternal medicine
Years active43
OrganizationAtkins Nutritionals
Known forAtkins diet
Notable work
Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution (1972)
Dr. Atkins' Superenergy Diet (1977)
Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution (1999)
Spouse(s)Veronica Atkins (1986–2003)

The commercial success of Atkins' diet plan led Time to name the doctor one of the ten most influential people in 2002.[1] The Atkins diet has been described as "one of the most popular fad diets in the United States".[2]

Life and work

Atkins was born in 1930 in Columbus, Ohio, the son of Eugene and Norma (Tuckerman) Atkins. His family was Jewish.[3] At the age of 12, his family moved to Dayton, Ohio, where his father owned several restaurants. As a young teen, Atkins held various jobs, including a position selling shoes at the age of 14 and a later gig on a local radio show. He attended Fairview High School in Dayton and, in 1947, finished second among 8,500 seniors on a statewide general scholarship test.[4][5] Upon graduating from the University of Michigan in 1951, Atkins had thoughts of becoming a comedian and spent the summer as a waiter and entertainer at various resorts in the Adirondacks.[4][6]

He eventually decided to pursue medicine, however, and received a medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1955. After completing an internship at Strong Hospital in Rochester, New York, and finishing his residency in cardiology and internal medicine at hospitals affiliated with Columbia University, Atkins specialized in cardiology and complementary medicine, and went on to open a private practice on the Upper East Side of New York City in 1959.[7]

Atkins' medical practice did not go well at first, and he began to put on weight and became depressed. After doing some research, he decided to pursue a low-carbohydrate approach published by Alfred W. Pennington, based on research Pennington did during World War II at DuPont.[4] He began applying this approach in his practice, and began writing books about low-carb diets that became known as the Atkins diet, publishing his first book in 1972 and a few years later opening a complementary medicine center.[4][8] He married his wife, Veronica, when he was 56.[8]

In 2002, he had a heart attack, leading many of his critics to point to this episode as proof of the inherent dangers in the consumption of high levels of saturated fat associated with the Atkins diet. In numerous interviews, however, Atkins stated that his cardiac arrest was not the result of poor diet, but was rather caused by a chronic infection.[9][10][11]


Atkins died on April 17, 2003, at the age of 72.[4] Nine days prior to his death, Atkins fell and hit his head on an icy New York sidewalk. At New York's Weill Cornell Medical Center, where he was admitted on April 8, he underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain but went into a coma and died from complications. He spent nine days in intensive care before dying on April 17, 2003.[12][13]

A medical report issued by the New York medical examiner's office a year after his death showed that Atkins had a history of heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension.[12][14] His widow refused to allow an autopsy.[14]


The Atkins Diet is a low-carbohydrate diet promoted by Atkins.[15][16][17]

His success inspired others to generate low-carb diets, and many companies released low-carb diets and low-carb foods.[18] After his death, the popularity of Atkins' diet waned, with the other low-carb diets eroding its market share and questions being raised about its safety.[18] In 2005, Atkins Nutritionals filed for bankruptcy. It was subsequently purchased by North Castle Partners in 2007 and switched its emphasis to low-carb snacks.[18] In 2010, the company was acquired by Roark Capital Group.[19]


  • 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


  1. Grossman, Lev (December 22, 2002). "Time Specials – Persons of the Year 2002". New York: Time inc. Retrieved July 3, 2012. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. Longe, Jacqueline L. (2008). The Gale Encyclopedia of Diets: A Guide to Health and Nutrition. The Gale Group. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-4144-2991-5
  3. Martin, Douglas (April 18, 2003). "Dr. Robert C. Atkins, Author of Controversial but Best-Selling Diet Books, Is Dead at 72". The New York Times.
  4. Stewart, D.L. (February 20, 2003). "Thin Memories: Author of controversial diet has Dayton roots, but his heart's in NYC". Dayton Daily News. p. C1.
  5. Mariani, John F. (2013). "Atkins, Robert (1930-2003)". The encyclopedia of American food and drink. ISBN 9781620401613.
  6. "Robert (Coleman) Atkins". Contemporary Authors Online: Gale Biography In Context. Detroit: Gale. October 30, 2003. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  7. Leith, William (April 19, 2003). "Robert Atkins: Diet guru who grew fat on the proceeds of the carbohydrate revolution". The Guardian. London. Retrieved October 29, 2009.
  8. "Dr Robert Atkins: Apostle of protein gluttony as a passport to health, wholesomeness and the perfect figure". The Times. London. April 18, 2003. Retrieved November 30, 2017.(subscription required)
  9. "Defending Dr. Atkins". Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  10. "Atkins diet author home after cardiac arrest". CNN. April 25, 2002. Archived from the original on September 9, 2010.
  11. "Report Details Dr. Atkins's Health Problems". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
  12. McCool, Grant (April 18, 2003). "Low-carb diet pioneer dies at 72". The Guardian. London. Retrieved October 29, 2009.
  13. "Just What Killed the Diet Doctor, And What Keeps the Issue Alive?". Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  14. Thalheimer J (2015). "Ketosis fad diet alert: skip low-carb diets; instead focus on nutrient-rich choices like whole grains, fruits and vegetables". Environmental Nutrition. 38 (9): 3.
  15. Gudzune, KA; Doshi, RS; Mehta, AK; Chaudhry, ZW; Jacobs, DK; Vakil, RM; Lee, CJ; Bleich, SN; Clark, JM (April 7, 2015). "Efficacy of commercial weight-loss programs: an updated systematic review". Annals of Internal Medicine. 162 (7): 501–12. doi:10.7326/M14-2238. PMC 4446719. PMID 25844997.
  16. Harper A Poo; Astrup, A (2004). "Can we advise our obese patients to follow the Atkins diet?". Obesity Reviews (editorial). 5 (2): 93–94. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2004.00137.x. PMID 15086862. Despite the popularity and apparent success of the Atkins diet, documented scientific evidence in support of its use unfortunately lags behind.
  17. "Atkins firm seeks financial help". BBC News. August 1, 2005.
  18. Bills, Steve (March 20, 2013). "Atkins delivers $118 mln dividend to Roark Capital". Reuters.

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