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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Is the Atkins diet safe?
Actress Claire Sweeney has blamed the Atkins diet for giving her a kidney infection.

The actress said she tried the controversial diet two years ago as a "quick-fix".

But within a month of following the diet she suffered a kidney infection which caused pain and a fever.

The diet which is based around a low intake of carbohydrates and an increase intake of protein, has numerous celebrity endorsements from names such as Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

What do you think about the Atkins diet? Is it safe? Have you tried it? Has it caused you to yo-yo with your weight?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

The Atkins diet isn't a huge dietary change. It actually is eating the daily requirements for carbohydrates and proteins. Most people have been poisoned by the food pyramid propaganda and over-consume carbohydrates, while under-consuming protein. It is really just being on the right daily requirements. I am not actually on the diet, but I don't like the taste of bread and watch what I eat. Surprisingly enough Atkins proscribes what I did before I heard of it, so it's just careful eating not some crazy thinness cult diet.
Matthew, USA

I think any diet that doesn't allow you to eat fruit and advocates cutting out a whole food group (i.e. carbs) is absolutely ridiculous and fool hardy! Being healthy and eating a balanced diet is more important than being stick thin!
Sarah, UK

Atkins is a way of life and a change in your eating habits
Nedine O'Brien, Hampshire, UK
Most comments here say that 'once you return to a 'normal' way of eating you'll put the weight back on'. With Atkins you cut out all processed foods that are not good for you. If you then return to eating 'normally' of course you'll put the weight back on, duh! Atkins is a way of life and a change in your eating habits; please guys read the book before you make uninformed comments. Why do you think it's getting so much bad press? May it be that the manufacturers of all this processed food may be worried about losing money? Also next time you go out and buy your 'low fat' foods compare the sugar content with that of the full fat, you may be surprised!
Nedine O'Brien, Hampshire, UK

Two weeks of cold turkey and then you're up and running. Of course you're never going to feel great doing the cold turkey. And as for blaming the Atkins diet for "giving a kidney infection" - my what expertise of diagnosis to blame the diet. If it works and you're in good health then you're not complaining. If it doesn't (work) and you're not (in good health) then get off it and do something else but please don't go blaming the diet for it not working. It does for some and it doesn't for others. As is the case with all diets throughout the ages.
George Kearse, United Kingdom

The simple fact is that while the Atkins diet may make you lose weight, it overloads your kidneys. Despite what overweight people have dreamed of their whole lives, there is no quick fix to lose weight. If you want to lose weight, the number of calories going out has to exceed the number coming in. It's not rocket science. Just eat right and exercise for God's sake!
Helen Berg, UK

In my opinion, the Atkins diet is a way of life. The media portrays it as a culprit for all sorts of problem, but that stems from mis-reading the information in the book or on the website. Many reports condemn the diet for not allowing fruit and vegetables - this is utter rubbish, the diet revolves around lots of salad, steamed vegetables, stir-fries and moderate portions of meat. It is only in the 1st two weeks (Induction phase), that these are not allowed abundantly. All in all, this way of life allows one to eat a very healthy diet, of fish and meat, with good oils and nuts. I cannot fathom why the government promotes a diet high in Processed Flour and Sugar for all the masses. This is converted into fat in the body. I have not followed the Atkins diet to a tee but my immune system, which was very weak is now strengthened and I am now looking and feeling much better.
Geetha, England

Depriving your body of essential nutrients can't be good
Jennifer O'Malley, Scotland
I don't think the Atkins diet is safe. Depriving your body of essential nutrients can't be good. The easiest way is to eat healthy, there is no quick fix!
Jennifer O'Malley, Scotland

The Atkins diet is brilliant! It makes you wonder about the motivation and support given to other diets over the years, which have continued to promote the sales of modern dietary and food products. Well done to Atkins.
Neil, Wales

If you are overweight and particularly if you are obese, in my mind it doesn't matter what diet you use to get the weight off. Using Atkins is far healthier than continuing to carry another 50lbs around.
Emma, US

So many people who knock low carbohydrate diets seem to be listening to media misinformation rather than finding out the real facts. Low carbohydrate eating is all about eating unprocessed, natural food, what our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived on and what we evolved to eat. Simple.
Lisa, UK

Fad diets of any sort, even doctor recommended are not the way to go
Chris Marland, Canada
Fad diets of any sort, even doctor recommended are not the way to go. At the end of the diet you revert back to 'normal' eating. The way to permanently loose weight is to continue eating a normal balance of food, maybe reduced quantities and exercising regularly. That was you don't get cravings for certain food because you eat them anyway and your body gets used to reduced amounts of a normal balanced diet.
Chris Marland, Canada

A healthy diet is a diet that is as varied as possible. So that's certainly not the Atkins diet!
Henk, UK

An article in a recent Nursing Times stated that there is no scientific evidence that the Atkins diet is bad for you. It further stated that there is some evidence that it could be good for you, as it reduces the "bad" cholesterol in the blood. This article was produce in a pragmatic way from a review of the scientific evidence. It did not take the standard reactionary views that the press and a lot of so-called scientists/health professionals have.
Robbie, UK

Perhaps people, including the so-called medical experts speaking for the UK government, should actually read the book properly. I have heard so many stupid comments about the diet (especially by some scientists and health professionals), which Dr Atkins has addressed fully, that I am astounded at the lack of scientific worth in their arguments.
Robbie, UK

Am 21 and I suffer from an overactive thyroid gland which causes my weight to go up whatever I eat. I Have kept my weight stable by using the Atkins diet in my everyday life, keeping a low intake of Rice, Pasta, Bread and potatoes and eating lots of fruit and veg. This allows me to do as I please at the weekends, as well as have a few drinks with my friends. If it wasn't for the Atkins diet I would have to life my life on a strict diet. My Doctor, on my last check up, praised me for being at a stable weight for more than a month, and after telling him that I was on the Atkins diet told me I am the healthiest he has seen me in a long time. I have been on the Atkins diet for three months and I'll stick to it as long as it works for me.
Kirsty, England

You cannot look at Atkins as a diet. It is more a permanent diet change. If you are prepared to give up consuming large amounts of carbs permanently, then it will work. You can lose a lot of weight with this plan. When you switch to the maintenance plan, you can have a few carbs but not many. The fact is that most carbs are bad for you anyway. Whole grains being the only exception but any carbs combined with fat intake will cause weight gain. I know someone who went off of it, ate a loaf of bread and gained 15 lbs. in three days!
SBR, USA

This diet is far more balanced than is being portrayed
Barry, Australia
It really astonishes me the number of posts critical of the Atkins diet from those who 'know' only what they have read in the media. I read that this diet is a fad, that Atkins dieter eats too much protein, that they don't eat vegetables, that the diet is all meat etc. Most Atkins dieters eat less in total than before the diet. Only now their diet is more highly nutritious and free of empty calories. Meat is part of the diet if you choose to eat it. There are other sources of protein, iron etc, but meat happens to contain high concentrations of nutrients and meat lovers will find the diet easy.

This diet is far more balanced than is being portrayed. Nuts, vegetables, fruit, eggs and fish are allowable in volume, as long as you select them carefully so as not to trigger an insulin spike. I read that protein is converted into glucose. Yes it is, as and when the body requires it to be. This means the dieter who eats protein will never be short of glucose. I suggest people read and understand the more recent Atkins book or official website before posting ill-informed comment.
Barry, Australia

I am almost 74 years old, have been on the Atkins way of eating for over two years and have lost about 75 pounds. I am very healthy and have never felt better. I recommend Atkins to anyone who wants to lose weight, it is so easy and very effective.
Julia Ludovico, United States

Despite the many success stories, I still don't understand how the Atkins diet works better than the age-old formula of a low fat, balanced diet and plenty of exercise. The logic supporting Atkins is a bit woolly and nostalgic - I'm sure that not everyone could afford to eat so much meat in times past, and I'm sure there were plenty of other diseases originating from nutritional deficiencies in our ancestor's diets. Plus, it's already been suggested that the diet may exacerbate existing kidney problems (see the BBC report of 17th April), and that those following it tend to lose muscle mass rather than fat. I'll stick with my carbs, thanks - in moderation.
Heather, UK

I have been on a form of the Atkins diet, I still have salads and some veg. Since being on the diet I have had more energy and stamina and have lost weight slowly; over the last three months just over a stone. When you look at modern living and the way most food producers are going, they all have what I call 'high octane fuel' as in sugars and carbohydrates. In the war and after there were not these types of foods nor were there in the early years of this country. Sugars are more of a recent import and cause problems as your body fails to use fats and essential oils and rather burn sugars.

Atkins type of diet can be successful in careful moderation and with sense. I and others have felt much more healthy in the rat race of a working environment on this type of diet. A friend told me how well he was doing on this diet and so I tried it. We are not all hybrid athletes that need to break world records so high sugars and carbohydrates are not essential, and can be sourced in moderation through normal dairy products etc.
Garry Kerin, UK

Our bodies are not equipped to deal with that much protein
Lloyd Evans, UK
No, of course it isn't safe. Our bodies are not equipped to deal with that much protein. Yes, we can metabolise protein for energy, but as a second resort (fat being the last). Anyone who goes on this diet is asking for trouble.
Lloyd Evans, UK

I am a healthcare professional. Knowing the physiological aspects of how the body works, it cannot "cause" kidney problems. Read a book and educate yourself. I believe the new Atkins book states this as well.
Michele, USA

Paul Johnson has the right idea. The fact is that most people see a diet as a simple weight loss programme. Whereas dieting, is about controlling your intake, taking more exercise and leading a healthier lifestyle. Personally however I swear by caffeine drinks. Recent research suggests that caffeine acts as a metabolic switch, forcing the body to burn fat reserves before starting on the carbohydrate (the body's natural response is the other way around. That's why weight loss is so difficult.)
Kevin, UK

I put myself on a diet about a month ago, and have dropped about 20lbs. All I've done is reduce my beer intake, started a low fat diet, stopped snacking between meals and exercised more. The fact is, the way to lose weight is with discipline.
Paul Johnson, UK

I lost 55lbs, normalized my blood pressure, lowered my LDL cholesterol, got rid of heart palpitations, and became much more active. It is much more than safe, it is the healthiest thing I've ever done. And I am by no means a special case.
Don White, USA

I have lost a lot of inches and I feel better now than I have done in years
Barry, Belfast
I've been on the Atkins diet now for about a month and although I haven't been taking it too strictly, allowing myself the occasional sweet treat, I have stayed off the main high carb products like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes and have to admit that although I've only lost a stone I have lost a lot of inches and I feel better now than I have done in years. I know that this diet doesn't work for everyone but for those it suits then it's great. As for those who criticize it, at least try it and if it doesn't work, or makes you ill then fair enough. Dr Atkins did say it wouldn't work for everyone. As far as I'm concerned, I'm glad to have discovered it.
Barry, Belfast

Probably not a good idea long term. But its probably more people's lack of attention to things like actually drinking enough water that help cause things like kidney troubles, skin troubles etc whilst pursuing unhealthy general diets.
Mr Broooks, UK

I'm sick to death of all this Atkins-bashing. Please just give it a rest! The diet works, I have been doing for nine weeks now and my life has turned around completely. I have a staggering eight stone to lose - at least. Why don't you follow my progress for the coming months?
Kiechelle Degale, UK

I've been following Atkins since June and intend to stick to it for life. I'm a changed woman, feel and look fantastic. Anyone who uses a diet as a "quick fix" is frankly stupid and should be sent for therapy
Tracey, England

To be perfectly honest I could never do the diet. Love my bread, rice, spuds etc. Seriously, why do you need diet? Just eat sensible in the first place and this will never happen. Three meals a day, no processed food. And most of all, no snacking. Then they would be need for a diet.
Maxwell Tsu-Ara˙jo, UK

The reason why the Atkins Diet works so well for the majority of people that follow it, is because they stop eating the cakes, biscuits, confectionery, and excessive portion sizes of potatoes in the form of chips and crisps, that made them overweight in the first place. When people are told that it is one food group that causes their weight problem, it makes it easy for people to deny their own gluttony.
Rob, UK

Vanessa, I can tell you that my husband and I are both blood type A. Atkins works great for him (he's lost 35 lbs.) It didn't work for me at all. Yes, I lost five lbs. in a month. However, after that, nothing. I also couldn't continue going without carbs, especially those found naturally in things like fruit. I think it works better for men than for women. I think men can handle a higher protein diet better.
Louise, USA

Vanessa (Switzerland). I have read the 'eat right for your blood type' book and I thought it was very good - it has helped me. For my blood group, it recommends that I avoid red meat, dairy products, fizzy drinks (I knew this before I read the book). The Atkins diet for me will mean rapid weight GAIN. I think it's fair to say that it works very well for some people because they can easily digest foods from these groups and not for other whose bodies (stomachs) cannot break down these foods easily.
JAC, UK

I would be interested to know if the people who have success with the Atkins diet are mainly blood group "O"?
Vanessa, Switzerland
Has anyone read the Eat Right for your blood-type book? I would be interested to know if the people who have success with the Atkins diet are mainly blood group "O" as this type should eat a high protein, low-carb diet. It would explain clearly why some people have success with a certain diet whilst others feel terrible.
Vanessa, Switzerland

I will not go back to eating carbs! I have lost a total of 65 pounds and have kept if off for over 9 years. It is the best thing that I have done for myself. I feel better, I look better, I have more energy and I'm in great health! For me there is no other way to eat.
Kim , United States

I wish people would research before deciding on something. Atkins is not a fad diet, it includes fruit and vegetables - more actually than the daily 5 portions recommended. It recommends getting your carbohydrates from fruit and veg, nuts and seeds, rather than bread, pasta, etc. Also it doesn't advocate a low intake of carbohydrates - it recommends an intake of carbohydrates that is right for you. Only sugar is forbidden and unhealthy fats. So, instead of criticizing based on misinformation, go on the website, read and make your mind up. I can honestly say that I eat healthily, varied and good foods. The diet makes me think of what I eat and when and why and that can only be good.
Hilde, The Netherlands

I have switched to the Atkins "way of life" since early July. Since that time I have lost 2.5 stones and my weight is still decreasing slowly. I feel great, better than I have done in years. Just because Ms Sweeney contracted a kidney infection does not mean that Atkins was at fault, maybe she was just vulnerable. There is no medical evidence to suggest that Atkins is bad for you, likewise there is no evidence that Atkins is good for you.. Is crossing the road more dangerous than the Atkins Diet? It works for me, it may not work for everyone, horses for courses...
Paul Wilkins, UK

The single biggest problem is people starting the 14 day 'kickstart' period, seeing weight fall off, and then trying to stay on it for months. Follow the programme, add carbs back into your diet (ideally as fruit and veg, not processed junk) until your metabolism is balanced again, and away you go.
The start period IS unnatural, hence the recommendations for lots of water and vitamin supplements, but it's only designed to swing your metabolism back from it's sugar-addled state; it's not a life diet.
Phil, UK

I started the Atkins diet on July 1st, weighed 124 kg. In two weeks I was 108 kg. All I did was eat three times a day no bread, pasta, rice or potatoes. I exercised three times a week and drank lots of water. I now am felling as fit as I was 15 years ago and it has given me that stepping stone for a better life. I now mix all my foods and have no problems. It helps your body to condition itself, it's not a diet forever. Read the book it will explain all properly.
MS, London

Have been on the diet for a week. Started it after running a half marathon. I feel fine so far and the weight has already started to come off. Bowels are not as comfortable as they once were but I am in control of my hunger and feel fine. Breath smells a bit though.
Andy Coogan, UK

It doesn't take the Atkins diet to experience this type of change - just sensible eating
Chris Collins, UK
I would be curious as to how much these people who reported a large weight loss actually weighed to begin with. This time last year I weighed 200lbs. I joined the Weight Watchers system which isn't a starvation diet either, it's a change in what you eat, and I lost 20lbs in two months as well. I'm now a steady 170lbs. It doesn't take the Atkins diet to experience this type of change - just sensible eating.
Chris Collins, UK

I thought we were meant to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day? Balance is what it's all about. Eating a bit of everything. That's what I do and I haven't got a weight problem.
Carly, UK

I am afraid to try this Atkins diet because I have always heard that too much meat can give you gout and give you a high risk of colon cancer. I just increase my intake of fruits and vegetables and eat a little amount of fish and lean chicken, no red meat, and natural fibre. The other key is to get plenty of exercise and water, I have lost a significant amount of weight that way.
Michelle Hendricks, United States

I am now in my 7th year of a high protein / low starch diet recommended by my rheumatologist as a therapy for Ankylosing Spondylitis. Kidney function remains normal and cholesterol level low.
Bill, UK

For years and years we have been told to stop eating fat. SO we did. So the food manufacturers had to stuff their products with carbohydrates to fill them out. That's why we are now getting fat on carbs and the main reason this diet works so well. We are always being told to eat a balanced diet, so balance it by cutting down on your carbs and you will loose weight too.
Bob, UK

I tried it and lost two and a half stone over five months. I had two weeks 'on' and then a weekend 'off'. I did find it boring but it was worth it because it worked. I have not followed the diet for over one year and have only put back on a couple of lbs - which lets face it can be daily fluctuation. I eat bread, pasta, rice and jacket potatoes at will! I would recommend in to anyone who cannot give up meat and cheese and cream and mayonnaise - etc.
Tracey, England

Like anything in life, do it in moderation and it is great
Jo Maher, England
I have used the diet to lose two stone. More importantly for me, I can now get into clothes of a few years ago and feel better. I eat more fresh food and less processed food and drink litres of water every day. I used to eat processed foods more, ready meals take always etc and drink fizzy drinks. Like anything in life, do it in moderation and it is great. Go at it without proper thought and you will get problems. My partner and friends are happily loosing weight with it.
Jo Maher, England

I do Atkins for two to three weeks at a time and then stay off for a week or so (I can't stay away from orange juice for any longer!) and the weight continues to drop off but also long standing IBS and reflux problems clear right up and energy levels rise. It might not suit some people but that's no reason 'everyone' needs to steer clear.
Jo, UK

I have just invented a diet to rival Dr Atkins... You can only eat cabbage. It's rather dull, you may feel ill and become malnourished, but I guarantee you'll loose weight. There is no substitute for a healthy, balanced diet and burning more calories than you consume.
S Dynan, UK

I just started. First week 8lbs, halfway through second another four so far. This is the induction phase, it's hard but bearable. Oh - by the way - I feel great. I may not yet look it!
C Berry, UK

Do your research folks. The Atkins diet is a fad diet, just like all the others (cabbage soup diet, three day diet, caveman diet etc.) It has no scientific basis and no support from the medical community. I don't know anyone who has followed this diet who hasn't put all the weight back on after reverting to their normal eating habits. And therein lies the problem: diets simply do not work. The only way to lose weight and keep it off is to change your lifestyle for good. Put simply, that means eating less (esp. processed foods) and exercising more. Simple, eh?
Michael Weston, Austria

In a group of 20 million people who are estimated to have tried Atkins you are going to get a few bad reactions - you get the same in any drugs trial. If you follow the book carefully and not pick up on media sound bites the majority of people will have no problems. It is a much better option than diabetes and heart disease
Alex, UK

The moment I went back to what was considered a normal sensible diet the weight piled on
Hazel, UK
I did a high protein diet way back in 1974 and found it was a successful means of losing weight. However, the moment I went back to what was considered a normal sensible diet the weight piled on. The main stumbling block to this diet is its cost, particularly in the early stages when one is likely to make sure to get their fill, prime cuts for meat never being cheap. Long term, the results are horrendous as I have ballooned to 100Kg more than my ideal weight.
Hazel, UK

To Matt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ex. UK) Matt, your 'science' is incorrect. Carbohydrates increase your blood sugar levels not protein. I know this because I'm a type II diabetic and regularly test my blood for glucose levels. I've been following the Atkins diet for over a year and avoid carbs like the plague. Bread, rice potatoes and pasta are the enemy of diabetics.
Dave Peers, UK

Barb, US has unfortunately fallen prey to the junk science behind this fad. High intake in protein will increase the blood sugar levels as the protein is broken into glucose before storage as fat. The side effect of this process is an increase in ammonia which WILL make the kidneys more prone to infection. The increased urea must be flushed, hence Leonarda (below) being told to drink plenty of water. The human body is NOT designed to eat this much protein. It is not natural. The vast majority of our diet was not protein, meat was rare. The reason people are fat is because they eat more than they use, no fad diet required.
Matt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ex. UK)

Kidney infections are caused by bacteria, not protein. The enormous amount of carbohydrates eaten by the average person causes insulin levels to rise in the blood, and that is responsible for vessel damage, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. The Atkins diet makes nutritional sense. In addition, when you control your blood sugar and therefore your insulin levels, your blood fats stabilize (LDL reduced, HDL increases, Triglycerides decrease, etc).
Barb, US

Duncan: Atkins is NOT based on the foods we evolved on. That diet would include a large quantity of fruit, veg, nuts and seeds. Atkins should not be confused with the GI-based diets, which do look sensible.
Janice, UK

I have been on Atkins for eight-and-a-half-months. I have lost 70 pounds. My doctor recommended it and does lab tests every three months to measure my uremic system and cholesterol. My uremic system is fine and my cholesterol has gone down by 50+ points. It is vital that you drink 100oz. of water every day with this diet. I'm sorry Claire Sweeney had trouble, but many thousands have not.
DT, U.S.

Any "diet" that famously involves drastically reducing or eliminating one or more of the major food groups surely must set off alarm bells. If a single banana contains "too much" daily intake of any nutritional element under this plan then it's clearly akin to irresponsibly saying "starve yourself, you'll lose weight."
Sam, UK

Low-carb is not a quick-fix, but if done *properly* then it really does work
Robert, UK
I have been on a low-carb diet for just over two months now. In that time I have lost just over two stones. I feel better than I have in years. Low-carb is not a quick-fix, but if done *properly* then it really does work. If you are thinking about doing it - READ the book and FOLLOW the advice. Problems are caused when you don't follow the advice.
Robert, UK

I told my grandma about the Atkins diet I was following - it turns out it's exactly the same diet that people followed in the 50's and 60's - no pies, bread or potatoes. Only since the 70's or so has a high-carb, low-fat diet been "in".
Bakers whinging about lower sales should move with the market and produce low-carb bread - that's what customers want.
Chris Jackson, UK

Atkins is not a quick fix, it is a lifestyle change. Any "diet" can help you lose weight but to keep it off you have to change your lifestyle. A lot of people think they can lose the weight and during that time some miracle has occurred that makes them no longer susceptible to weight gain. They go back to eating all sorts of junk and wonder why the "diet" failed them. If you have the propensity to put on weight, you cannot expect some miracle cure to suddenly turn you into one of those people who eat like pigs and never gain a pound.
Nicole, Canada

I am doing Atkins diet for 3 months and I have lost 9 kilos. I consulted the medical doctor and he suggested me to drink about 2 - 3 litres water per day. It works! I think that enough liquid is needed for the body when you go for Atkins.
Leonarda, Latvia

I started following the Atkins Nutritional Plan on April 14th 2003. Within weeks my energy levels had increased, my skin was clear and I proceeded to lose 4 stone and now maintain my weight with no problems at all. It has to be the simplest method of cutting sugars from your diet and for some reason it comes in for seriously bad press.
Colin, UK

I tried the Atkins diet for three weeks and I lost 10 pounds. I then swapped to a high carbohydrate diet and have been following that for four months. I have since lost three stone on this diet. I feel much more healthy on the high carbohydrate diet than I did on the Atkins diet.
Matthew, Manchester UK

What's more of a health risk, the Atkins diet or obesity?
Asif, UK
The Atkins diet is based on the type of foods humans evolved to eat. Processed foods like sugar and flour are the root cause for the epidemic of diabetes, heart disease and cancers. These diseases have increased in line with refined produce. These diseases were not apparent several hundred years ago when people lived on the equivalent to the Atkins diet. What's more of a health risk, the Atkins diet or obesity?
Duncan, London, UK

I tried the diet for five days, I felt so unhealthy and lethargic that I stopped immediately and didn't lose an ounce.
Kevin, UK

There is no harm on going on it but only for a short period of time though, after 2 or 3 weeks you should intake carbs and make sure you do have vegetables and try taking vitamins tablets as well and get plenty of exercise!
Asif, UK




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SEE ALSO:
Three million follow Atkins diet
01 Sep 03  |  Health
Atkins diet health warning
17 Apr 03  |  Health


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