Treatment developed for cancer patients now being used to shed weight
POSTED: Saturday, April 21, 2012 - 6:00pm
UPDATED: Saturday, April 21, 2012 - 6:04pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Nose feeding tubes are typically used on patients who are suffering from head or neck cancer and cannot swallow.
They are those patients' nutritional lifelines.
Now some women are turning to those feeding tubes to lose a lot of weight, quickly.
Dr. Oliver Di Pietro says the practice is safe, and has been working for years overseas.
In a recent interview at his Bay Harbor Islands, Florida clinic, Di Pietro talked about the K-E diet, which he calls an extreme form of the Atkins diet.
"You're fed continually through a feeding tube, so it's a small spaghetti-sized tube that gets inserted through the nose under local anesthesia," he said.
It's slightly uncomfortable, and the patient has to carry a feeding pump 24/7.
The only nourishment the patient receives is "K-E diet" powder - an infusion of proteins and fats, with no carbohydrates - mixed with water.
The patient only takes in about 800 calories a day, but the infusion is constant and the absence of carbs curbs hunger.
"The body rapidly goes into profound ketosis. And when you're in ketosis the body starts to burn fat not muscle which is why you lose so much weight so quickly," Di Pietro said.
Most people lose about two pounds per day, for a total of about 20 pounds over the 10-day treatment period, he said.
Di Pietro says it started in Rome, where physicians there began using feeding tubes 10 years ago as a way to lose weight.
He decided to bring diet stateside last July to help the morbidly obese, he said.
Then he saw a shift in demand, including from brides-to-be.
"Slowly the need and the demand shifted toward mainly women that needed to lose much less weight and the situation with the occasional bride saying, 'I need to fit into my wedding dress.' 'I'm a nervous eater, and I've been gaining weight,'" Di Pietro said.
Not everyone thinks the tube diet is a good idea.
"Getting 800 calories would be too low for anyone, but getting them from lean protein, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, is very different than getting them through a feed tube," registered dietitian Keri Glassman said.
It is not cheap: the K-E diet costs $1,500 for 10 days.
Di Pietro insists it is safe, and says it's up to the patient to keep off the weight.