Disturbing trend alert: The feeding-tube diet

The Week's Editorial Staff

The latest weight-loss method to hit U.S. involves inserting a tube into your nose — and it's proving popular with brides-to-be desperate to shed pounds fast

Plenty of brides try to lose weight, hoping to pull off tightly fitted wedding gowns. Some go on crash diets, others combine a hard-core cleansing regimen with a brutal gym schedule. But these days some women are taking dieting to a new extreme by having a feeding tube inserted into their noses, which funnels a slow drip of liquid protein and fat (with no carbohydrates) through the esophagus into the stomach. Is this a safe and effective way to shed pounds? Here, a brief guide:

Really... a feeding-tube diet?
Yes. Patients following the K-E (ketogenic enteral nutrition) diet wear a feeding tube in their nose for 10 days. The tube delivers 800 calories a day and promises the loss of 10 percent of the patient's body weight or up to 20 pounds. While it's new in the U.S., the technique has been used for years in Europe. And it's effective, Dr. Oliver Di Pietro tells ABC News. "Within a few hours your hunger and appetite go away completely, so patients are actually not hungry at all for the whole 10 days."

SEE MORE: The green coffee bean: A miracle weight-loss drug?

Do women say it works?
Satisfied customers of Dr. Di Pietro are defending the K-E Diet. In March, Jessica Schnaider, 41, of Surfside, Fla., used it to lose 10 pounds so she could fit into the dress she hopes to wear at her June wedding. She had the tube pulled out two days early, because she had reached her goal, and didn't want to get too skinny. Another patient of Di Pietro's, Jennifer Derrick, dropped from 159 pounds to 125 pounds thanks to the K-E Diet, so she could fit into her grandmother's wedding dress.

Is the diet truly innovative?
Not really. Any method that involves cutting calories from 3,000 per day to 800 will lead to weight loss, Dr. Scott Shikora, the director of the Center for Metabolic Health and Bariatric Surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, tells The New York Times. "The novelty is, they shove a tube in your nose," he said.

SEE MORE: Are we underestimating how fat Americans are?

So what are the cons?
It costs $1,500, for one thing, since patients must be supervised by a doctor. Plus, there's the matter of walking around with a tube in your nose, which makes this the "grossest" and most "disturbing" weight-loss fad to date, says Charlotte Cowles at New York. Sure, 70 percent of engaged women, according to one survey, want to lose weight — typically around 20 pounds — before their special day, but regular exercise and skipping dessert would be a healthier way to go about it. Even though some doctors warn that extreme low-calorie dieting can cause side effects, including kidney stones, dehydration, and headaches, says Jen Chung at Gothamist, desperate brides will likely still ignore the warnings. "But the photographs will look so awesome!" 

Sources: ABC News, Gothamist, New York, NY Times

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