UK & World News
Controversial Feeding Tube Diet Reaches UK
Dieticians have warned of the dangers of losing weight with a "starvation diet" available in Britain for the first time.
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) says there are "huge risks" to the diet, in which people are given just 130 calories a day through a feeding tube that goes up their nose and down to their stomach.
The 10-day regime forces the body to burn up so much fat that people lose up to 10% of their weight.
But Sasha Watkins, dietician and spokesperson for the BDA, said naso-gastric feeding tubes should only be used in hospital under medical supervision.
"They could become dislodged while people are at home and food may go down into the lungs," she warned.
She added the severe calorie restriction and pure protein formula feed could damage the kidneys.
The fears have been robustly dismissed by the doctor promoting the Ketogenic Enteral Nutrition (KEN) diet.
Dr Ray Shidrawi is a widely respected consultant gastroenterologist at Homerton Hospital in east London and runs a private weight-loss clinic.
He told Sky News that soon-to-be published trials on more than 19,000 patients in Italy show that the diet is safe.
"KEN is a properly studied technique. We know it does not harm you in any way," he said.
"This diet leads to sustained and selective weight loss. It burns fat, not muscle."
He has treated 85 patients with the diet. Between them they have lost more than 850kg, or 134st. And some have been able to reduce, or even stop, their medication for diabetes and high blood pressure.
Dr Shidrawi threads a narrow tube through a KEN patient's nose, down their throat to their stomach. A pump drip feeds a protein liquid through the tube day and night. The regular feeding fools the stomach into feeling full.
In America the extreme diet is being used by brides hoping to fit into a smaller dress and look slimmer in their wedding photos.
But Dr Shidrawi said the diet was "not about treating thin women to be even thinner".
He was approached by a woman with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 19, but refused to treat her.
One of his patients, who would only give her name as Maria, used to weigh 94kg, nearly 15st. She lost 12kg (2st) in her first treatment. She has now started a second.
"I have lost 7in from stomach area and 5in from my hips. To lose 5st in weight will take three months, which is remarkable," she said.
"Commercial diets are too slow - just a pound a week - and most people lose interest.An extreme diet like this is the next step.
"This is far better than surgery or drugs to speed up metabolism."
But Ms Watkins said: "What is this saying about our relationship with food?
"Tube feeding for weight loss is hugely extreme. There is no magic wand to weight-loss."