NEW YORK: Atkins Nutritionals and its agency of record Williams Whittle Rothstein (WWR) have launched an aggressive media relations charge in response to a New York Times article claiming the company was retreating from its long-held stance on the consumption of saturated fat.
The January 18 Times piece reported that Atkins Nutritionals' director of research and education, Colette Heimowitz, has appeared at several professional meetings saying that people following the Atkins diet should allow for only 20% of their calories to come from saturated fat.
That clarification, said the article, counters the commonly held notion that the now-famed low-carb diet permits its followers to eat all the meat they want. The diet itself doesn't officially address saturated fat intake, which many in the medical community have linked to heart disease and other ailments. The company rejected the implication that this was a change in diet recommendations.
Richard Rothstein, partner at WWR, said the media is buying into "lies perpetuated by copy cats," or new diet doctors and authors intent on positioning their plans as the "new Atkins."
Rothstein called his firm's response on behalf of its client "indignant," but "not defensive." Nevertheless, he acknowledged, "There is a part of us that enjoys this. It gets the media to talk about the details of the diet. On that level, it opens doors for us, and we pursue that with fervor."
Immediately after the article ran, WWR issued a statement asserting that the claims made regarding a change in Atkins' stance on saturated fat were false. The statement also denied that any changes had been made to the diet. The response was posted on Atkins Nutritionals' website, sent out over PR Newswire, and e-mailed to all members of the media who had reported changes to the diet.
WWR booked 35 direct interviews in the US and UK with doctors and nutritionists to explain that the diet hadn't changed. Stuart Trager, chairman of the Atkins Physicians Council, appeared last week on Good Morning America to reinforce Atkins' position.
WWR also encouraged Atkins followers to submit critical letters to the Times. In addition, the firm worked with Atkins Nutritionals to construct an op-ed piece in response to the article, which it plans to submit to the Times and other major outlets.
Last year, the South Beach Diet, which places more emphasis on the types of carbohydrates dieters consume rather than just the amount, was introduced. The book has since sold more than five million copies.