My lawyers will eat you for breakfast over Atkins claims, Zeta-Jones warns
By Nicola Woolcock and Oliver Poole in Los Angeles
Catherine Zeta-Jones was the envy of many new mothers when she shed four stone with amazing speed after giving birth.
But, fresh from two recent legal actions, the Welsh actress threatened yesterday to sue anyone who attributed her weight loss to the controversial Atkins diet.
The hugely fashionable high protein, no carbohydrate regime has been openly embraced by other glamorous actresses, including Julia Roberts, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Aniston.
Zeta-Jones, however, denies ever following the diet and claims it is unhealthy.
The actress, who found fame in Hollywood with her role in Zorro and whose latest film is Intolerable Cruelty, says she has a responsibility to "young women who look up to her and admire her beautiful appearance".
A lawyer for Zeta-Jones said: "According to publications around the world, the Atkins diet has been derided by nutritionists and other health officials for decades.
"By stating that Ms Zeta-Jones uses and/or endorses the Atkins diet, those publications are falsely representing to the average reader, including many young women who look up to my client and admire her beautiful appearance, that Ms Zeta-Jones would recommend this diet to any person looking to lose weight.
"My client is being made to look as if she is more concerned about her outward appearance than she is with serious health concerns.
"Nothing could be further from the truth."
The statement comes a week after Zeta-Jones, 34, and her husband, Michael Douglas, 59, were awarded £14,600 damages against Hello!, the celebrity gossip magazine, which printed unauthorised photographs of their wedding.
They brought the action partly because Zeta-Jones claimed the pictures made her look fat. She told the High Court: "The photograph made me look large.
"From a professional point of view this is an example of a photograph I would never have allowed to be published because it was extremely important for my career that I regained my figure after giving birth."
Although the couple won their claim that the magazine breached commercial confidence, they were awarded a lot less than the £600,000 damages they sought.
Zeta-Jones claimed during the High Court case in London earlier this year that £1 million "is a lot of money maybe to a lot of people in this room, but it is not that much for us".
The actress is also suing Caudalie, the French cosmetics company, for £10 million, for allegedly using her name to promote its products without her permission.
Reports that Zeta-Jones had used the Atkins diet were widely published after she regained her hourglass figure within three months of giving birth to her son, Dylan, in August 2000.
She reportedly lost two stone on that occasion, and shed four stone after giving birth to her daughter Carys seven months ago.
Zeta-Jones's lawyer said her anger stemmed partly from the worry that the association of her "valuable name" with the diet could not only damage her reputation but also affect her ability to sign future endorsements with health-related products.
The Atkins diet was invented 30 years ago by Dr Robert Atkins, who died in April after falling on ice and hitting his head.
It recommends that, to achieve rapid weight loss, followers should eat high levels of meat and cheese and severely restrict their intake of bread, pasta and starchy vegetables.
But medical experts have warned that those on the diet increase the risk of developing diabetes, bowel cancer, kidney stones, liver problems and weak bones.
A spokesman for the Atkins company claimed it did not know how Zeta-Jones's name became linked with the diet.
"It's never been our policy to seek celebrity endorsements," he said.
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