Widow: Atkins wasn't obese at death
'I was outraged when I first read that'
Veronica Atkins: 'Let Dr. Atkins rest in peace, for heaven's sake, and let me grieve in peace.'
Exclusive: Veronica Atkins, widow of the diet doctor, discusses the controversy surrounding his death, with CNN's Larry King (February 16)
(CNN) -- The widow of low-carb diet guru Dr. Robert Atkins said Monday that she was "outraged" at charges her husband was obese at the time of his death and denied his heart problems had anything to do with the protein-heavy diet he espoused.
"I was outraged when I first read that because it's totally not true," Veronica Atkins said from Miami, Florida.
"He was not overweight. He did not have heart failure," she added.
Atkins slipped and fell on an icy street April 8, suffering a severe head injury, and remained in a coma until life support was withdrawn April 17. He was 72.
The Wall Street Journal published a story based on a medical examiner's report saying that Atkins had a history of heart disease and heart attacks, and that at the time of his death, the more than 6-foot-tall doctor weighed 258 pounds -- considered obese by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's body-mass index calculator.
Veronica Atkins said her husband gained as much as 60 pounds after entering the hospital after the accident.
"The physicians told me it was because of all the liquids they were giving him," she said of the intravenous feedings her husband received.
She also denied reports that a heart attack caused her husband's fall.
"He did not have a heart attack, he definitely did not have a heart attack. That comes from his cardiologist," she said.
Atkins' injuries from the fall were critical, his widow said.
"Half of his head was gone, half his brain had to be taken off, practically," Veronica Atkins said. "The cranium certainly was gone. I mean, it was a severe, severe, severe trauma to the head."
Mrs. Atkins said her husband had developed a condition called "cardiomyopathy" about three years before his death and suffered a heart attack in April 2002, which he discussed openly in interviews.
In an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" in January 2003, Atkins himself said the heart attack may have been related to the cardiomyopathy -- a serious disease of the heart muscle. Atkins said his cardiomyopathy came from a viral infection, a common cause of the disease.
A group called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) provided the medical examiner's report on Atkins' condition at his death to The Wall Street Journal, the group said.
A statement on the PCRM Web site said it obtained the report from a doctor not connected to the group.
Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the New York City office of the chief medical examiner, said the records were erroneously sent to Dr. Richard M. Fleming of the Fleming Heart and Health Institute in Omaha, Nebraska. She said the medical examiner's office is filing a complaint with the state of Nebraska.
She said the records would not be released to anyone else, but said they clearly indicate that Atkins died from the head injury.
Veronica Atkins called PCRM "enemies of us," saying they were "ultra, ultra vegetarians," adding she is considering a lawsuit against the group for its use of the medical examiner's report.
"Let Dr. Atkins rest in peace, for heaven's sake, and let me grieve in peace," she said.
PCRM has been criticized by the nonprofit National Council Against Health Fraud as "a propaganda machine" for vegetarianism, with strong ties to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which opposes using animals for food. The Atkins diet encourages people to eat meat.
PCRM insists it is independent of PETA.