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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 05:17 GMT 06:17 UK
Atkins firm seeks financial help
Steak on a grill
Atkins says its diet is about more than just meat, meat, meat
Atkins Nutritionals, the company behind the low-carb diet which swept the world and split medical opinion, has applied for bankruptcy protection in the US.

The firm was founded in 1989 by Dr Robert Atkins and promoted a diet that replaced carbohydrates such as bread and pasta with proteins like meat.

Demand for the Atkins diet has dipped amid questions about its safety and following the death of its founder.

Other firms also are offering similar products, eating into Atkins' sales.

'Health and wellness'

A US bankruptcy court will hear the firm's Chapter 11 filing on Monday.

Chapter 11 in the US allows a company to keep trading, but gives it protection from creditors in the hope that it can work out a rescue plan and put its finances in order.

The company owes lenders close to $300m, according to court documents. It has secured funding of $25m to finance day-to-day operations.

President and chief executive Mark Rodriguez said Atkins has adjusted its structure "to accommodate a smaller business" and will promote its brands "more broadly for consumers who are concerned about heath and wellness".

After it leaves Chapter 11 protection, the company will focus on its nutrition bars and drinks, Mr Rodriguez said.

The Atkins diet was a global phenomenon that changed the way many people ate and spawned a whole range of low-carb food products in supermarkets and restaurants.

'Nutritional philosophy'

While cutting out carbohydrates proved a very successful way for many people to lose weight, medical experts said that following the diet plan for an extended period could have long-term negative effects on health.

They pointed to a scarcity of vegetables and fruit, and said that people should try to follow a more balanced diet.

Atkins has hit back by saying that its Atkins Nutritional Approach is a "lifetime nutritional philosophy".

The profitability of the diet was never in question, however, and large food firms including Unilever, Kraft and General Mills all brought out their own range of low-carb foods.

Atkins has seen its sales dwindle as a result and its UK operations went into administration earlier this year.

Atkins is majority owned by private equity firm Parthenon Capital, with Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and the estate of Robert Atkins holding smaller stakes.

Company and diet founder Robert Atkins died in April 2003 from injuries he sustained in a fall.

Atkins 'was not obese at death'
12 Feb 04 |  Americas

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