You might have heard about the Ketogenic Nutrition Diet (or K-E Diet) (or “feeding tube” diet), or perhaps seen the segment about it recently on the TV show 20/20, where young, seemingly healthy people were walking around with feeding tubes inserted up their noses and down into their stomachs, all the while raving about the tremendous amounts of weight they’d lost. I know: I was pretty appalled myself.
The Experts Weigh In
Now, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the voice for its over 70,000 members, has taken the time to issue a statement about this, uh, diet. I quote liberally from AND’s statement, to remove all doubt as to what health and dietary professionals think about the K-E Diet:
The so-called Ketogenic Nutrition or K-E Diet was developed to induce rapid weight loss by providing a specialized high-fat, high-protein, very low-carbohydrate (or ketogenic) diet through nasogastric feeding (insertion of a tube through the nose) for a period of 10 days. The formula is provided 24 hours a day using a pump.
Enteral nutrition—or feeding by tube—is a type of life-sustaining medical nutrition therapy that is intended to promote and restore the health of people who cannot consume food orally. There are valid medical reasons for employing such diets, including drug-resistant epilepsy.
However, the K-E Diet contains potential risks to both short-term and long-term health, including kidney damage and cholelithiasis (gallstones) from rapid weight loss. In addition, since the plan does not address the psychological and emotional reasons that cause many people to overeat, the lost weight is often regained once the diet is stopped.
Both Dangerous and Futile
I echo the words of the Academy’s leaders regarding this potentially dangerous and futile effort at long-term weight loss. After 22 years as a registered dietitian, with the majority of those years spent overseeing patients who were undergoing medical and/or surgical weight loss, I shudder to think what the future of weight loss would be like if more and more people suddenly started to jump on this broken-down bandwagon.
There’s No Easier Way than What I'm Always Preaching
As unglamorous as it may sound, there’s still just one paramount principle that’s behind every sensible person’s long-term weight-loss goal: a healthy diet, including three balanced meals a day with protein and a healthy source of carbohydrates, coupled with regular physical activity. Even my patients getting weight-loss surgery are educated about the fact that gastric bypass surgery is still only a tool, although a powerful one, and that the best chance they have of maintaining the benefits of their surgery is long-term, healthy, lifestyle habits.
And for long-term success in reaching any goal, including a healthy weight, besides depending on a healthy diet and regular physical activity, also must incorporate into itself a stress-management program, good sleep habits, a positive attitude, and a positive network of support.