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Sept. 20, 2004
Press Release by the Coalition against BAYER-dangers

Pharmaceutical Companies throw useless supplements on the market

Atkins: „BAYER Corp. benefits from risky diet“

The Atkins diet, which allows unlimited consumption of protein and fat but drastically limits carbohydrates and does not restrict calories, has attracted millions of followers in the past few years. In the US 44 million people are either on a low-carb diet or watching their carb intake. As low-carb followers may lack vitamins and minerals, about 5 million Americans are taking supplements – a potentially giant market for food and pharmaceutical companies.

But these diets typically accelerate calcium losses. Health organizations are warning of possible heart problems, kidney abnormalities and osteoporosis. Danish obesity expert Dr. Arne Astrup recently concluded in The Lancet medical journal that headaches, muscle weakness and diarrhea are reported more often by Atkins dieters than people on conventional diets. Also, bad breath, muscle cramps, diarrhea, general weakness and rashes are more often reported on low-carb diets than on low-fat diets, Astrup found.

Health experts generally agree that the best place to get the vitamins and minerals you need is from food. However, the food and drug industry hops on the Atkins-bandwagon in spite of this: In April, Bayer Corp. launched its over-the-counter One-A-Day CarbSmart multivitamin containing B vitamins and antioxidants. In four months the drug has raked in $2.8 million in U.S. sales. Wyeth followed suit a month later with Centrum Carb Assist. Bayer’s One-A-Day WeightSmart for dieters even grossed $32 million in the U.S. last year.

Philipp Mimkes, from the German „Coalition against BAYER-dangers“, which has been monitoring BAYER for more than 25 years, comments: „Bayer Corporation tries to benefit from a highly risky diet. Of course Bayer´s managers know that Atkins´ diet can harm your health and that food supplements can never replace natural food. But in the end people´s health doesn´t count much for pharmaceutical companies – as long as sales are up.“ The Coalition demands that the effect of supplements should be controlled by state agencies and that all food additives are available on prescription only.

Bayer recently took over Roche´s over-the-counter drug unit, thus adding further vitamin products to their portfolio. In Europe the Atkins-hype is only beginning, starting with Great Britain. Increasing numbers of reports about the „wonder diet“ are being published in magazines and TV shows.