ABU DHABI // Scores of overweight or obese patients have lost up to 10 per cent of their body weight in 10 days with a controversial extreme starvation diet.
Instead of solid food, they consume a solution of protein, nutrients and water drip fed in to the stomach through a plastic tube to the nose.
“I can guarantee this treatment yields good results in just 10 days,” said Dr Luigi Angelini, a surgical consultant at Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi, Ketogenic Enteral Nutrition (Ken) diet, is one of the weight-loss programmes at the hospital’s obesity centre.
The diet has been introduced elsewhere, including the UK, amid controversy, but Dr Angelini insists it is both safe and effective.
“People want to reduce weight in a short time,” he said. “And this is very fast – it is just 10 days.”
The diet is supervised by specialised doctors and has resulted in 160 patients at Al Noor losing weight without complications or hunger pangs since it was introduced at the hospital last year. One patient who weighed 236 kilograms lost 17kg after the first 10-day cycle.
Those who have high blood pressure have also improved. “Skin is also noticeably better. They can look four to five years younger,” said Dr Angelini.
The Ken method is used in cases where traditional weight-loss surgery, such as gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy and gastric banding, is not suitable.
While on the Ken, the patient can lead a normal life, said Dr Angelini. However, they must carry a small machine attached to an electric pump, which is fixed to one end of the tube and works 24 hours a day to slowly drip-feed the formula.
They are allowed to unhook themselves from the pump for one to two hours a day and can drink water or tea with the tube in.
Side effects are minimal and patients “do not feel hungry at all”, Dr Angelini said.
“A few patients, on the four or fifth day, they experience some weakness. Then they can drink some coffee, tea or water – with no sweeteners or milk – and they feel fine.”
The Ken technique is based on giving patients amounts of protein smaller than their normal daily needs and works by sending the body into controlled starvation, forcing it to use its own fat.
After 10 days, patients lose up to 10 per cent of their weight and are less hungry, making it easier to keep a stable weight after treatment.
Patients can repeat the Ken a maximum of 21 times, with an interval of 10 days between each treatment.
The diet, said Dr Angelini, is suitable for anyone other than those with a Body Mass Index of 40 or more, who are classed as morbidly obese.
A 10-day cycle costs Dh5,000.
Rashi Chowdhary, a nutritionist in Dubai, does not believe it is an effective treatment.
“Starvation plans are not successful in the long run,” she said. “With ketogenic diets, you might lose mainly fat, at least initially, but when you resume eating normally, the weight will always come back.”