KEN Diet: Are You Ready for Extreme?
The KEN, Ketogenic Enteral Nutrition diet keepers eat nothing, instead, they take in a patented liquid formula made up of protein and nutrients via a plastic tube that goes up their nose and is taped on to their face for ten days at a time. There’s another tube which is an electric pump, which works day and night to deliver two liters of the liquid over 24 hours.
Those who keep the KEN diet can go about their lives as normal but must always carry the pump and liquid in a bag or backpack and hang it by their bed at night.
They may ‘take off’ the pump for one hour a day — for bathing. Also, the dieters can drink water, tea, coffee (with no milk, sugar or sweeteners) or sugar-free herb teas with the tube in.
Dieters could still eat or drink the banned things if they wanted to, but they don’t feel hungry after a couple of days.
KEN works by sending the body into controlled starvation, forcing it to use its own fat for energy – it works fast. Each cycle of KEN helps you to get rid of to 10 per cent of body weight in just ten days, without, apparently, causing any loss of muscle, and without causing hunger.
This no-food diet originated in Italy, it was invented by Gianfranco Cappello, associate professor of general surgery at the University of Rome’s La Sapienza Hospital. Cappello is a world expert in artificial feeding, and has successfully treated 40,000 patients with the KEN diet.
Dr Ray Shidrawi, a highly respected consultant gastroenterologist at the NHS Homerton University Hospital in London says:
Without carbohydrates, two things happen.First, you don’t feel hungry. Second, your body starts to burn fat stores at a huge rate. When the diet is administered steadily over 24 hours, the body remains in a fat-burning mode.”
The heavier you are, the more weight you lose, so patients shed, on average, between four to nine per cent of total body weight in ten days.”
After ten days off the tube, when the person must stick to a healthy eating regime, the cycle is repeated. So far, the UK clinic has treated about 60 patients, who between them have completed 150, ten-day cycles of KEN.
Last year, 45-year-old Helen Jones (not her real name), from London, weighed 15½st — which, at 5ft 8in, made her clinically obese. She says:
I’d tried to lose weight but I have a stressful job in the City and had got into a spiral of feeling bad, then treating myself with food.”
But is it safe to lose weight like this? Helen Bond, state registered dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, says:
It simply strikes me as the latest in a whole series of faddy weight-loss diets. It shocks me that people are willing to have naso-gastric (NG) tubes inserted in order to lose weight. Can you imagine walking into a meeting with an NG tube in your nose?”
You will, of course, lose weight rapidly on such restricted calories — but no one should slim that quickly. We recommend losing 1lb to 2lb 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.”
But Dr Shidrawi is convincing us that it is safe. He says:
Before we take on a patient, we take a fully detailed medical history. We also check their body composition — how much is fat, how much is muscle etc, both before and after the treatment. Sixty-six per cent of the weight patients lose is fat, 30 per cent is water, and they don’t lose muscle at all.”
Dr Shidrawi argues that his diet is more natural than our current carb-heavy way of eating.
Early humans all lived on a ketogenic (fat burning) diet of meat and fat. Of course, we couldn’t put someone on a diet like this for weeks on end, but for ten days it is safe and improves health.”
Almost anyone can go on the KEN diet, though it’s not suitable for people with kidney failure or an allergy to milk proteins. And unlike the high-protein Atkins Diet, it is recommended for people with heart problems. The KEN diet formula ‘isn’t a super high-protein diet, which can strain the kidneys.”
The main side-effect, he adds, is constipation, caused by a total lack of fibre. But all patients are given laxatives and are also asked to test their urine every day. Ketones (created when your body burns its own fat) are expelled via the urine and breath, so another side-effect is bad breath. Dr Shidrawi agrees that being on the diet can be difficult.
You don’t feel hungry, but you can feel very tired. My wife did it, and lost 11 lb in ten days, but she felt terrible — exhausted. But then she didn’t have much weight to lose.”
Isn’t the process of putting in the tube horribly unpleasant? Again, Dr Shidrawi insists not.
I know the concept is worrying and scary, but we use a superfine tube designed for children. There is no sensation of the liquid passing down the throat at all.”
Conventional wisdom has it that weight lost this fast will be regained with equal speed. Again Dr Shidrawi says this is not a problem.
Cappello has data on 1,800 patients and it shows that, a year on, 85 per cent of the weight has stayed off. KEN won’t stop you gaining weight as we all tend to, year on year, but it resets the clock — in ten days you can lose a year’s worth of creeping weight gain.”
As for the inconvenience of lugging the pump everywhere, and the social stigma of having a plastic tube hanging out of your nose, Dr Shidrawi shrugs.
The pump is very light and extremely quiet. And my patients report people helping them with their bags — they often think they have cancer and are under medical treatment.”
In his newly established private clinic in London, Dr Shidrawi has set the price for treatment, including ten days of nutrition, supplements and loan of the £1,000 pump, at £375 for the initial cycle and £350 for subsequent ones.
It’s important to me that ordinary people can afford this treatment. I see the difference it makes. They have often tried and failed, and lost all hope of losing weight. This gives them hope back. And for some of them, it gives them their life back.”
Other experts, though, are sceptical. Independent nutritionist Ian Marber says:
This is probably the most extreme diet I’ve ever encountered. 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.”
But Dr Shidrawi is unrepentant.
If diets worked, if healthy food worked, we wouldn’t have obesity. People try and fail, so what do we do, look at obesity and just let that happen? I will not do that.”
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