When Dr Robert Atkins published his book "Dr Atkins Diet Revolution" in the early '70s, his recommendations went against the nutritional grain of the time.
Defended his diet on Capitol Hill
While medical experts were recommending low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets, Dr Atkins suggested people who wanted to lose weight should do the exact opposite.
His philosophy was that up to two thirds of calories could come from fat - more than double the usual recommendation - and people should eat meats and cheeses instead of breads, pastas, and even fruits and vegetables.
The American Medical Association dismissed his diet as nutritional folly, saying it was "potentially dangerous" and "biochemically incorrect", and he was summoned to Capitol Hill to defend the plan.
But Dr Atkins was undeterred. He saw carbohydrates as the key dietary villain in obesity, arguing that it made susceptible people pump out more insulin which in turn encouraged them to put on fat.
Despite the controversy, his book sold millions worldwide and his philosophy enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s with a new book, "Dr Atkins' New Diet Revolution".
Today, his diet is reputed to be responsible for the slim-line figures of celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Minnie Driver, Demi Moore and Geri Halliwell.
It's not that it needs to be low-calorie. As long as you cut out the carbohydrate the weight loss is automatic
Dr Atkins' diet philosophy
But criticism of the diet has lingered, with many arguing that it could affect kidney function, raise cholesterol levels and deprive the dieter of important nutrients.
Other critics say such diets lead to diseases like osteoporosis and heart disease.
Dr Atkins, a graduate of Cornell University's medical school, first tried a low-carb diet in 1963 after reading about one in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
He said he lost weight so easily that he decided to convert his New York cardiology practice into an obesity clinic.
Dr Atkins said no study had shown that people with normal kidney function developed problems because of a high-protein diet, and refused to give in to his detractors.
"See, that's a big mistake ... to tell people to restrict calories," he told CNN in January. "They lose the weight, they feel fine, then they get to their goal weight and they still have 60 more years to live, and are they going to go hungry for all 60 years?"
Geri Halliwell is said to have used an Atkins-type diet
He added: "It's not that it needs to be low-calorie. As long as you cut out the carbohydrate the weight loss is automatic."
This year, his approach was vindicated in part by some half-dozen studies showing that people on the Atkins diet lost weight without compromising their health.
Still, many of the researchers were reluctant to recommend the Atkins diet, saying a large new study now under way could settle lingering questions of its long-term effects.
When Dr Atkins - who leaves wife Veronica - had a cardiac arrest in April 2002 he put out a statement saying it was "in no way related to diet."