Liver disease – another nail in the coffin of the Atkins Diet?

    5 May 2015

    We had a health panic in the media at the weekend. ‘Killer disease on rise due to overeating,’ said the Sunday Times. ‘Most liver transplants by 2020 could be linked to over-eating, not alcohol’, chimed in The Observer. ‘Overeating sparks liver disease epidemic among Britons’, announced the Telegraph.

    Should we worry? Maybe. Dr Quentin Anstee, consultant hepatologist at Newcastle University – which is working on an EU-funded survey of liver disease – has found that 25 per cent of people ‘who are just a bit overweight’ suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Previously it was believed that fat in the liver wasn’t harmful. Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong are coming to much the same conclusion as Dr Anstee.

    If they’re right, this isn’t good news for the Atkins Diet, many of whose disciples scoff large amount of butter and cream. Now, admittedly, Atkins wants you to lose weight and the findings relate to fat people – such as, for example, Dr Robert Atkins, who was over 18 stone when he died. The Atkins people implausibly claimed he’d put on loads of extra weight as he lay in a coma following a fall.

    But The Sunday Times (link here if you can read behind their paywall) quotes chef Alexis Gauthier, who became ill after ‘sampling’ lots of red meat, butter and cream at his Michelin-starred restaurant in Soho. He was 6ft, 13 and half stone and aged 40. So, although that’s just one anecdote, it’s possible to develop the disease by eating too much fat even if you’re not chubby.

    The Atkins diet is already well and truly out of fashion. Take a look at the once-buzzing ‘Recent blogs posts’ include one from April this year, which – if I’m reading it correctly – was the first since July 2014. There’s no discussion of Christopher Snowden’s Spectator Health article last week, which refers to ‘the eccentric opinion of three Atkins evangelists, one of whom is a lobbyist for a pressure group’.

    How will the faithful react to a study which implies that their diet is putting their livers at risk? I would ask my Atkins-following friends, but every single one of them has abandoned it.