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24 September 2014
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Atkins gives new health advice following BBC ONE Real Story Diet Trial

An Atkins diet company spokesman has given new health advice for anyone following the low carbohydrate, high protein diet.

In an interview with BBC ONE's Real Story with Fiona Bruce, Collette Heimowitz, vice president of Atkins Health and Medical Information Services and Education and Research Director, says it is imperative that anyone following the diet should "follow the programme to the letter" and that mixing with other diets "poses risk".

In particular she says it could be "deadly" to mix high carbohydrate foods with high fat foods.

The advice follows an experiment on the Real Story programme (BBC ONE, Monday 1 December, 7.30pm) in which three doctors followed the diet for a month.

One of the doctors was hospitalised and had to be given morphine to control chronic stomach pains. He was admitted overnight and had to be fed intravenously.

Maurice Gleeson, 42, a former A&E doctor and now a psychiatrist in London, had to be taken to hospital by ambulance after suffering from acute constipation.

He was one of three doctors taking part in a unique experiment to measure the health benefits and risks of the diet for the BBC ONE current affairs programme.

He tells the programme: "The pain just started getting worse and worse. I could not find any position that was comfortable so in the end I called an ambulance.

"I was concerned I would need an operation to unblock the bowel. If there is complete obstruction of the bowel it can lead to death.

"I was very, very, very cold because with the pain I was sweating profusely and then shivering with the cold. I was very, very shut down - my fingers were blue.

"I actually had to have morphine. I was almost crying on several occasions because I have never had pain like this before. I was completely convinced that was due to the Atkins diet."

Dr Gleeson joined the four million other Britons who have tried the diet in the last five years. He fell ill at four weeks in.

He kept a video diary for the duration of the diet and admitted to deviating from the low carb, high fat regime on a number of occasions.

He drank small quantities of alcohol and on one occasion ate ten chocolate biscuits.

Then, when the pains in his intestine became so severe, he ate bread and drank mango juice "to try and get things moving".

A few hours later, he had to call for an ambulance.

Atkins' spokeswoman Collette Heimowitz said: "When you cheat with alcohol, when you cheat with juice, when you cheat with bread, you're switching back to a carbohydrate metabolism.

"It's a different metabolism, so the risk factors associated with high carb, high fat is the most deadliest of combinations and you're not on the programme if that's what you're doing.

"The only reason why taking in high fat is safe is because you're burning it as a primary source of fuel - you're burning the fat on your body and you're burning the fat dietarily that you're taking in and then it doesn't pose a risk.

"Add to that alcohol, add to that juice, add to that fruit or bread - you're not on the programme. You're burning carbohydrates and that fat poses risk.

"You have to follow the programme to the letter. This is a highly structured programme and if you're going to cheat don't do it because the deadliest of combinations are high fat and high carb.

"If you're the type of individual that isn't highly motivated and doesn't have the drive to get down to your normal weight and follow the programme then this isn't for you."

Collette Heimowitz added: "I would not recommend this programme to anyone who's not committed to a total lifestyle change. This is a way of life.

"I am very concerned with people who do suffer with side effects from this programme and I encourage them to go to their physicians and work with their physician and if their physician says this programme is not for you then you need to listen to your doctor.

"The reality of the situation is that there are individuals out there that will only read the two chapters that talk about the induction phase which is the most strict and unfortunately for them that's not the way of life that we intended.

"We realise the responsibility and we are making aggressive efforts to educate physicians because we know that people will do better if they're counselled during their efforts in any weight loss programme."

At the start of the Real Story trial dietician Nigel Denby carried out various tests on the doctors.

One of the major concerns of the Atkins diet is that it encourages the body to burn good lean muscle tissue.

When this happens, anyone stopping the diet will find their calorie requirements are less and the weight will come straight back on.

Before the diet, 14.9% of Maurice Gleeson's body weight (or 11kg) was made up of fat.

After four weeks his fat percentage increased to 17 per cent (13.8kg).

Another doctor, Gill Jenkins, an air ambulance doctor and GP, found that her levels of 'bad' LDL (low density) cholesterol had increased from 4.88 mmol to 6.07 mmol - above a clinically safe level.

But medical journalist Dr Sarah Brewer found the diet very successful.

Her bad cholesterol fell slightly and so did her fat tissue. She lost 11 lbs in weight and has decided to continue with the Atkins programme.

Nigel Denby said: "Gill was initially quite pleased with her weight loss - 7lbs - but she changed her tune when we looked at the fats in her blood.

"The harmful type of cholesterol had risen to such an extent that she'll be looking for some form of treatment to correct that."

He said Maurice Gleeson's results were "extremely worrying".

He added: "Luckily for Maurice he was pretty fit already, but for somebody less well than Maurice that could have been significantly more worrying."

Notes to Editors

Maurice Gleeson - Psychiatrist

Weight: 13st 2lbs to 12st 11lbs

Bad cholesterol: 2.37 to 2.60 mmol/L

Body fat %: 14.9% to 17%

Gill Jenkins – GP and air ambulance pilot

Weight: 12st 8lbs to 12st

Body fat %: 40.6% to 39.4%

Bad cholesterol: 4.88 mmol to 6.07 mmol/L

Sarah Brewer – Medical journalist

Weight: 12st 10lbs to 11st 13lbs

Bad cholesterol: 2.77 – 2.15 mmol/L

Body fat %: 37.4% to 36.3%

Real Story with Fiona Bruce, BBC ONE, Monday 1 December at 7.30pm

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