Atkins Diet Left Me in Casualty With Agonising Cramps

September 24, 2003
Daily Mail (London)
by Lech Mintowt-Czyz

A WOMAN ended up in accident and emergency when her body seized up only six days into the Atkins diet.

Sally Vickers, 27, was crippled by severe cramps in her stomach and legs while taking a bath and became trapped for two hours.

She was rescued when her boyfriend Paul Roberts, a 24-year-old agricultural technician, came home and heard her cries.

Miss Vickers, from Rennington, Northumberland, was taken to Alnwick Infirmary where she was diagnosed as being dehydrated, a known complication of the Atkins diet, and put on a drip.

Her experience will cause frighten other followers of the diet, which has faced a deluge of negative publicity.

On Monday, the Food Standards Agency highlighted the increased risks of cancer and heart disease from diets, such as Atkins, which favour fat over bread and cereals.

Last month, the Government-funded Medical Research Council said followers of the diet could suffer kidney damage and bone loss.

Nutritionists have also claimed that the high-protein diet creates a resistance to insulin which could trigger diabetes.

Most shocking was the case of 16-year old Rachel Huskey, in Missouri, who died of heart failure after trying to lose weight.

A coroner could find no explanation for the heart problem but a team of experts who investigated her death said it was probably due to the way the Atkins diet upset her metabolism.

The eating plan has been tried by more than three million Britons and its success has caused a boom in sales of cheese, eggs and red meat.

Miss Vickers, a size 14 who is 5ft 5in and weighs 11st, started the diet six weeks ago after deciding she needed to lose a stone in two weeks before a friend’s wedding.

Six days into the diet she woke in pain. ‘It was appalling,’ she said.

‘The book had said that I might suffer a few cramps but I was in real difficulties.

‘I started getting cramps in my legs and really bad pins and needles. That spread to my stomach.

‘I went to get in the bath because I thought the warm water might make me feel better but after I got in my legs just seized up and I couldn’t move.

‘The pain was agonising and every time I tried to get up it hurt more, so eventually I just gave up and waited in the hope someone would come.

It was frightening.

‘I was stuck in the bath for about two hours before my boyfriend rescued me. He hadn’t been due to come home from work until the evening but he decided to come back for lunch on a whim.

‘When I got to hospital I told the doctor I had drunk lots of water but she said that the diet is dehydrating because of a chemical reaction it causes in the body.

‘She advised me to come straight off the diet.’ Miss Vickers, an accounting firm assistant manager, was allowed to go home later the same afternoon.

‘I would never do the diet again, it’s just not worth it,’ she added. ‘I lost just over half a stone but other people need to know how dangerous it can be. It really isn’t worth the risk.’ Julia Smith, a dietician with the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘The Atkins diet book says everyone must have at least two litres of water every day.

‘It would surprise me if anyone managed to drink that much, but that is an absolute minimum.’