NEW YORK — Atkins Nutritionals Inc. joined with several national and regional nonprofit education groups to help prevent and combat childhood obesity. A few days after the partnership was announced, The Partnership for Essential Nutrition, a coalition of consumer, nutrition and public health groups, launched a letter-writing campaign against the partnership.

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), Public Schools for the 21st Century (PS21) and the National Education Association's Health Information Network (NEA HIN) joined with Atkins to promote a well-balanced, nutritionally sound eating plan that encourages whole, unprocessed foods, healthy alternatives to products filled with added sugars and regular physical exercise.

“We aren't suggesting that parents require their children to follow the specific protocols of the Atkins Nutritional Approach,” Atkins Medical Director Stuart Trager said in a company release. “Simple steps like making sandwiches on whole grain bread, scaling back of sugary snacks and soda and encouraging a half-hour of exercise a day can keep children healthy and make a world of difference.”

Less than a week after the announcement, The Partnership for Essential Nutrition urged concerned parents to write letters and make calls to the education groups partnering with Atkins.

“The low-carb marketers of the Atkins diet are using a cunning strategy to place their name and logo in an arena that should be sacrosanct — our nation's schools,” Barbara Moore, president of Shape Up America!, one of the lead groups involved in the coalition, said in a release.

“Although the stated goal is to combat childhood obesity, the real agenda is to continue to portray carbohydrates as the nutritional equivalent of snake oil and to target this information at vulnerable children,” she said.

The group adds that the brain requires 130 grams of glucose a day for normal functioning — a quantity of carbs that the Atkins diet, even in the maintenance level, does not include. The group also urges parents and local school boards to reexamine the system for how schools are financed.

“The implementation of a strategy such as this highlights a lack of commitment to a rational system of financing public education that will protect the health and well being of our nation's children,” Moore said.