Atkins diet company launches food range

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You've read the book, done the diet - now buy the chocolate bar. Not content with persuading millions of people to cut out carbohydrates and fill up on steak, the Atkins diet company has launched its own range of food.

You've read the book, done the diet - now buy the chocolate bar. Not content with persuading millions of people to cut out carbohydrates and fill up on steak, the Atkins diet company has launched its own range of food.

Branded with the Atkins logo, the new products are designed to fit in with the low-carb, high-fat regime which has become a global phenomenon. The company is hoping the range, already a best-seller in America, will fatten its coffers as Britons attempt to slim their waistlines.

But it was criticised by dieticians. Amanda Wynne, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, said yesterday: "These products are another example of a fad diet taking advantage of people and I consider them a waste of time. People would be much better off following a good balanced diet."

The range includes high-protein, low sugar breakfast cereal bars, milkshakes and chocolate, as well as a "unique" low-carb baking mix for bread and muffins. Atkins claims that by using wheat proteins rather than flour, the mix enables dieters to have the bread and pancakes once denied to them by the regime.

The products will be stocked by the high-street chemist chain Boots, and selected health food shops, from the beginning of January.

Such is the power of the "Atkins effect", that Boots wanted news of the launch embargoed until 5 January when stores will be stocked with the products, in order to prevent floods of customers in the next few weeks.

Invented by Dr Robert Atkins 30 years ago, the diet advocates cutting out carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes and pasta, but allows people to eat cheese, cream and meat.

Atkins Nutritionals, the company behind the diet books and products, is notoriously secretive about both its profits and ownership. It is believed to be 50 per cent owned by Dr Atkins' widow Veronica. Turnover is thought to be around £60m a year.

The Atkins effect has been variously credited with boosting the sales of steak and eggs, and blamed for a slump in bread and potato purchases. Celebrity endorsements from stars such as Jennifer Aniston and Robbie Williams have given Atkins a global brand that WeightWatchers could only dream of.

Atkins aficionados may find their wallets soon become as lean as their waistlines, however. A 60g Atkins Advantage chocolate bar costs £1.79, while a 500g tub of the bake mix is priced at £8.99.

The company has consistently denied accusations from health experts that the diet deprives people of key vitamins and minerals. But the new range includes nutritional supplements, with a 14-day starter pack costing more than £20.

Colette Heimowitz, vice- president of education and research at Atkins, said: "There's nothing new in what we are saying - the rise in obesity in the Western world largely stems from excessive consumption of sugar and heavily processed foods."

Two million people in the UK are following the Atkins diet.

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