http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3509792.stm 'Put fat children on Atkins diet' Fat children should be put on Atkins-style diets to lose weight and prevent illness, a cancer specialist has said. Professor Julian Peto, of the Institute of Cancer Research, said high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets could suppress appetites and keep children slim. Obesity "is now overtaking smoking as the number one killer and I am very concerned that we need to tackle it early," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. He said dietary advice for children was not working and needed a "rethink". He added that children should be weighed regularly in school. The problem of obesity is soaring among children in the UK. In 1998, 9% of two to four-year-olds were considered obese - almost double the figure in 1989. The World Health Organisation says being overweight causes diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. Professor Peto said the Atkins diet, which involves eating lots of meat and other high protein foods, while restricting carbohydrates, worked because proteins suppressed the appetite and people did not eat as much. "I am sure the Atkins wasn't developed on this basis but that is why it works," he said. "The levels of salt and fat are anything but healthy but the basis of the diet - which is low carbohydrate and high protein - is ideal for losing weight." Opponents of Atkins-style diets claim that, over the long term, they can cause kidney damage, thin bones and constipation, raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of diabetes and an early heart attack. But some British doctors are already putting obese children on Atkins-style diets. Dr Dee Dawson, medical director at Rhodes Farm Clinic, a residential home for treatment of children with eating disorders, says the diet is good for children. "The children who come here are not just overweight, they are ill, and in danger of dying. Some of them can't breathe and some of them can't lie down. "I do think the basis of Atkins - low carbohydrate and high protein - is a good diet for children and the priority is for these children to get weight off." But nutritionist Dr Toni Steer, of the Medical Research Council, warned that there is not enough research into the long-term health effects of being on the diet. "We realise obesity is a major problem which we need to tackle as a matter of urgency but I would be very concerned about advising children to follow diets like Atkins."