updated 5/28/2004 7:44:36 AM ET 2004-05-28T11:44:36

A businessman has sued the promoters of the Atkins Diet, saying the low-carb, high-fat meal plan clogged his arteries and nearly killed him.

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Jody Gorran, 53, said Thursday that he was seduced “with a bacon-wrapped cheeseburger” to blindly follow the Atkins Diet, which also made his cholesterol soar to a risky level.

Gorran said the suit is not about money, noting he is seeking less than $15,000 in damages. Instead, he wants the court to ban Atkins diet books and products that do not have warning labels about potential health risks.

Company defends science
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday with the aid of the Washington-based group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, also names the estate of the diet’s late creator, Dr. Robert Atkins.

Atkins Nutritionals said it stands by the science that has “repeatedly reaffirmed the safety and health benefits of the Atkins Nutritional Approach.” The company also questioned the motivation of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which promotes a vegan diet banning meat, fish, dairy and egg products.

The Atkins Diet advocates meat, eggs and cheese, frowns on bread, rice and fruit, and allows up to two-thirds of calories from fat, more than double the usual recommendation.

Gorran said he started the diet in 2001 because his weight had risen from 140 to 148 pounds. In two months, he said, his cholesterol rose from a normal 146 to an unhealthy 230, and by October 2003, he needed angioplasty to clear his arteries.

“I came very close to dying, and this is from a diet I thought was marvelous,” said Gorran.

Atkins medical director, Dr. Stuart Trager, said the cholesterol increase claimed by Gorran is “dramatically greater than what we have seen” in scientific studies.

Robert Atkins argued that carbohydrates generate too much insulin, which makes people hungrier and encourages them to put on fat. His books, including the best-selling “Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution,” have sold 15 million copies and attracted millions of followers.

The same advocacy group involved in the suit released details of Atkins’ autopsy report in February, 10 months after he died after slipping on an icy sidewalk. The report showed Atkins, 72, had a history of heart trouble, including congestive heart failure and high blood pressure — details that stoked debate over the diet.

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