The New Atkins Nutritional Approach has defended its diet plan after a study warned against eating a high-protein diet

The company behind the Atkins diet has hit back at a study claiming a high-protein diet could be harmful to human health.

Some press reports this week cited the Atkins diet as a high-protein diet, however Linda O’Byrne, chief nutritionist for New Atkins Nutritional Approach, said the study from the University of Southern California did not reflect the Atkins plan.

“The diet followed by participants of the University of Southern California study – the results of which suggest that eating large amounts of protein in middle age can be as deadly as smoking – is in no way reflective of the Atkins diet,” O’Byrne said.

“High-protein consumption is not associated with all low-carb diets. In fact, Atkins recommends taking approximately 25% of calories from protein, which does not in any way align with the diet in the study.

“The sample used in the research consumed a high percentage of carbohydrates (51%) at the same time as protein, meaning this isn’t representative of those who follow Atkins, who are advised to take less than 10% of their calories from carbohydrates.

“Consuming large amounts of protein alongside carbohydrates has been linked to heart disease, as documented in numerous peer-reviewed clinical human studies. With proper implementation of a carbohydrate-controlled diet… key factors of heart diseases such as triglycerides and HDL levels are reduced.”

O’Byrne added: “The study also pinpoints the negative impacts of animal protein, but Atkins can be modified and followed as a vegetarian or vegan.”

The University of the Southern California study reported that under 65s who ate a diet rich in animal proteins such as meat , eggs , milk and cheese were four times more likely to die from cancer or diabetes than those who ate low quantities. Over 65s, however, were found to benefit from a higher protein diet.

The study, which was published in the journal Cell: Metabolism, elicited a strong response from the medical community , with some criticising its methodology and conclusions.

“It is wrong, and potentially even dangerous, to compare the effects of smoking with the effect of meat and cheese,” said Dr Gunter Kuhnle, a food nutritionist at the University of Reading.