Landmark case challenges safety of Atkins diet

West Palm Beach County Court Judge Susan Lubitz ruled today that the landmark lawsuit filed by former Atkins dieter and Florida businessman Jody Gorran will go forward. Gorran, 53, sued the Atkins Nutritionals on May 26, 2004, claiming that the popular high- protein, low-carbohydrate diet was liable for the severe heart disease he developed while on the diet.

After more than two years on the diet, Gorran suffered a life-threatening artery blockage, requiring angioplasty and a stent to keep the artery open. Prior to going on the Atkins diet, Gorran had undergone a heart scan that showed zero blockages in his arteries. On Atkins his cholesterol level soared more than 50%, from 146 to 230. (The American Heart Association considers levels under 200 desirable.)

According to Jody Gorran, the $15,000 lawsuit filed against the Atkins empire was not about money but more of a symbolic token. Gorran states, "My real intention for filing this lawsuit was to raise public awareness. I want everyone to know about the potential dangers of the Atkins diet." Gorran is also seeking an injunction to force diet promoters to put serious warnings on books, the website and products.

Gorran said that while Americans are always looking for a quick fix or an exotic approach to slimming down, the tried and true messages from health professionals is what worked for him. Within two months after quitting the Atkins diet and going on a Pritikin-style diet, Gorran's cholesterol levels plummeted from 230 to 146. However, in July, after a two-week visit to The Pritikin Longevity Centerin Aventura, Florida, Gorran's cholesterol level dropped even more dramatically to 110, and the LDL levels -- the harmful cholesterol -- dropped from 80 to 51. It was evident that The Pritikin Program, which focuses on a balanced selection of high fiber, nutrient rich, low calorie foods, had a positive effect on Gorran's health. This lawsuit is reviving the 30 year -- old diet wars between the Atkins diet and the Pritikin diet.

In light of his improved physical condition, Gorran says the Pritikin Program taught him a new way of eating and living. "The Pritikin experience gave me a unified theory of health, combining a doable exercise and eating plan. I found the Pritikin plan quite doable as it emphasizes all the food groups instead of eliminating some of them as Atkins and Ornish do."

Based on science and research, the Pritikin Program was the first to demonstrate the link between diet and conquering disease nearly 30 years ago. It is one of the most thoroughly studied diet and exercise plans and the subject of more than 100 scientific studies in conjunction with scientists at UCLA and other leading universities, which have shown it to be effective in reversing the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even prostate cancer. The Pritikin Program has even been shown to be highly effective in children, according to data presented at the American Heart Association conference in March, which showed a dramatic drop in children's cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

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