Dr. Atkins' cause of death has been at the center of debates over whether the Atkins diet is safe since the doctor's death in 2003. Many people ask, "How old was Dr. Atkins when he died?" because they are convinced he died as the result of complications arising from his own, revolutionary diet program.
In fact, Dr. Atkins, promoter of the Dr. Atkins diet plan, was 72 years old and relatively healthy when he died. Although he could have lived for several more years, he didn't die at what most would consider a young age. In fact, Dr. Atkins died after being in a coma for several days due to a blood clot in his brain that was sustained in a fall on an icy sidewalk.
Since he passed away, Dr. Atkins' cause of death has been such a hot topic of conversation that Snopes.com, the popular website devoted to busting urban legends, addressed the question. The conclusion reached at Snopes is that any link between the doctor's death and his own diet plan couldn't be proved. The site also noted that the weight reported for the doctor at the time of his death was likely due to excess fluid build-up in his system while in the coma and on various drugs.
One of the most vocal groups that have insinuated that there was a link between Dr. Atkins' death and his high protein/high fat diet is "Physicians Group for Responsible Medicine." This group can't be said to be neutral, however, because it is made up of physicians who promote and endorse a vegan lifestyle, which is diametrically opposed to the Atkins diet.
No one disputes that Dr. Atkins suffered from mild cardiomyopathy, but there is debate over what caused this heart anomaly. Critics assume it is because of his diet, but this isn't held up by the actual autopsy reports or the doctor's medical records. The cardiomyopathy was most likely caused by a virus. It may have contributed to the fall that eventually caused the death of Dr. Atkins, but it wasn't tied to his diet.
Another popular belief about Dr. Atkins' cause of death is that he was obese when he died because the medical examiner's report listed his weight at death at 258 pounds. It's apparent to doctors who are asked about his, however, that the extra 60 pounds can be attributed to routine medical care provided to anyone in a coma. Fluids and various medications used on Doctor Atkins in the last days of his life caused him to swell and retain fluids. His normal body weight, recorded by his own doctor just a few months before his death, was around 200 pounds, a healthy weight for the six foot tall physician.
It's clear that the argument over what finally caused Dr. Atkins' death will continue as long as there are individuals using the Atkins Diet menu plan to lose weight. As more facts become evident, however, it becomes clear that Dr. Atkins' cause of death was indeed the brain injury he sustained. His critics are finding very little that can support their claims.