Low-carb journalism

A cardiologist at my school recently emailed us his deconstruction of Dr. Atkin's autopsy report. I'd credit him here, but I'm afraid of exposing him to the wrath of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, the vegetarian group that inappropriately obtained and disseminated the report.

Anyway, the cardiologist noted that Atkins died at 258 lbs after 10 days in the ICU, still had his swan ganz, and was jaundiced. The most important piece of info, though, was his pre-admission weight -- 195 lbs.

He put on sixty pounds in 10 days in the ICU. The jaundice and Swan suggest a multi-organ failure secondary to sepsis / SIRS, and difficulty maintaining blood pressure. His pre-admission weight was 195, but the press latched onto the 258 lbs figure and took the position it so often likes: exposing a hypocrite -- the diet guru who seemed to be fat. I'd call this low-carb journalism: easy to consume, but hard for people to gain anything from it.

There's a lot to dislike about the coverage on this matter. And those investigative reporters who went beyond the "258 lbs" figure ended up citing pathologist Dr. Baden, who incorrectly believed that accumulating 60 lbs of fluid in 10 days is impossible, or medical malpractice. It's a lot of fluid, to be sure, but even I knew Baden's estimate of 5-10 lbs of fluid as appropriate is too conservative.

I think there are real stories to be reported here. In the 10 months since his death, the Atkins logo has appeared everywhere, from Subway delis to candy bars. Is this what he was really planning? Or are profiteers exploiting his name and work? When you consider that his recommendations were first published 30 years ago, and the diet first made headlines about 7 years ago, it's odd that the marketing push would occur now, just months after his death.

Or, if a reporters ever used calculators, they'd learn that even his pre-admission weight of 195 lbs leads to a BMI of 26 (he's apparently 6'0"). That's slightly overweight, even before the bags and bags of IV fluids were pushed.

And finally, I'd like to hear more about the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine. If the press follows stories with a hint of hypocrisy, they might get a kick out of "responsible" docs publishing private medical records and apparently getting away with it.