A quarter of GPs say they would advise patients to remain fat rather than recommend trying the Atkins diet, a poll has suggested.

The survey, carried out by medical website Onmedica, also said that one in ten GPs had actually tried the popular low-carbohydrate diet themselves, reported BBC News Online.

While there is no evidence that the Atkins diet is harmful to health, many nutritionists are concerned about the lack of knowledge about the long-term health effects of the diet.

"Family doctors are constantly being asked about the diet by patients, but there is little information about its safety," Dr Luke Koupparis, from Onmedica, was quoted by the BBC as saying.

"So the majority are advising caution. The message from GPs seems to be that a proper balanced diet is much better for promoting weight loss and long-term health."

A spokeswoman for Atkins Nutritionals said that advising obese patients to avoid the Atkins diet was "irresponsible," the BBC reported.

"We know obesity to be life-threatening while no studies have shown Atkins to be such, so to denounce a working solution to this crisis contradicts their duty to society," the spokeswoman said.