Tube feeding weight-loss diet reaches the U.K.

If you thought juice cleanses were extreme weight-loss measures, imagine getting all your nutrients through a feeding tube for ten days at a time.

The European KEN (Ketogenic Enteral Nutrition) diet that's recently invaded Britain makes juice cleanses sound like a royal feast. Two liters of patented liquid formula of protein and nutrients is dripped into the patient's stomach via a plastic tube inserted through the nose.

After becoming extremely popular in Europe, the KEN diet recently made its way to the UK, where Dr. Ray Shidrawi, a gastroenterologist at London's NHS Homerton University Hospital, has been raving about the diet's effectiveness, especially with his severely obese patients.

"Without carbohydrates, two things happen," Shidrawi tells the UK's Daily Mail. "First, you don't feel hungry. Second, your body starts to burn fat stores at a huge rate...Patients shed, on average, between four to nine per cent of total body weight in ten days."

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It works by sending the body into a sort of controlled starvation mode, but rather than losing muscle mass as typical starvation would cause, the body eats away at its fat stores for energy. Following each cycle, the patient is instructed to eat a healthy diet for ten days before undergoing another round of KEN.

One of Shidrawi's patients spoke to the Daily Mail about her experience with the KEN diet: "I felt fine during the treatment — I had no hunger at all. I lost 15 lbs the first time and then booked a course of three more cycles."

The patient, whose final treatment ended last month, lost a total of 50 lbs.

"Not eating for ten days gives you a break from thinking about food — which, for me, was associated with stress and guilt," she tells the Daily Mail. "Socialising was difficult, though — it's hard to nurse a black coffee while everyone else is eating."

The KEN diet originated in Italy with Gianfranco Cappello, the associate professor of general surgery at La Sapienza Hospital in Rome, who has treated approximately 40,000 people with it.

According to Austin Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, Ketogenic diets, which are high in fat and low in carbohydrates, are sometimes used to treat epilepsy. When the body is burning fat for energy rather than carbs, seizures can be reduced. The New York Times reports that enteral nutrition (food the goes directly to the intestines), on the other hand, is sometimes used as a treatment for Crohn's disease, especially for malnourished patients who have trouble eating the regular way.

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Despite the glowing reviews from Dr. Shidrawi and his patients, other health experts are skeptical of the diet's long-term benefits and safety.

Helen Bond, dietician and British Dietetic Association spokesperson, tells the Daily Mail, "It simply strikes me as the latest in a whole series of faddy weight-loss diets. You will, of course, lose weight rapidly on such restricted calories — but no one should slim that quickly. We recommend losing 1 lb to 2 lbs per week, over a long period, during which time you learn how to manage your food and drink intake. The psychological and emotional reasons for over-eating also need to be addressed, which this plan fails to do."

Nutritionist Ian Marber sides with Bond, telling the Daily Mail, "I'm gobsmacked this is being offered to people who aren't ill, or at the very least morbidly obese. It's a terrible indictment of the times we live in that food is such an enemy that people want to do this."

Shidrawi nonetheless insists that the treatment is a safe option for people with weight concerns, telling the Daily Mail, "Sixty-six per cent of the weight patients lose is fat, 30 per cent is water, and they don't lose muscle at all."

To the nay-sayers who insist the patients will gain all the weight back just as quickly as they lost it, Shidrawi says, "Cappello has data on 1,800 patients and it shows that, a year on, 85 per cent of the weight has stayed off."

The cost is £350 per feeding cycle ($550 CAD) and £375 for the first cycle. There's been no talk of the KEN diet being available in North America as of yet.

Would you consider ten days of tube feeding to lose weight or do you think that's going too far?

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