Low-carbers beware the breathalyzer

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Arecent article in the International Journal of Obesity should give low-carbers cause for a little alarm.

Here is what happened to a man in Sweden on a low-carb diet:

We report a case of a 59-year-old man, body mass index 26.6 kg/m2, who began a weight reduction program, partly because of knee pains but also because he was a glider pilot where weight is important. He used a Swedish textbook on obesity treatment written by S Rössner together with the commonly used Swedish VLCD [very low calorie diet] Nutrilett (Cederroths, Stockholm, Sweden), 5 packets/day for 3 weeks, which is an approved standard regimen. This treatment resulted in a weight loss of 7 kg.

During dieting, the man discovered that an alcohol ignition interlock device, installed in an official company car, indicated that he had consumed alcohol and the vehicle failed to start. This was confusing because the man was a life-long teetotaller and was therefore both surprised and upset by the result. As he had been supervising private aviation he had access to a second breath-alcohol analyzer, which indicated a simultaneous BAC ranging from 0.01 to 0.02 g/100 ml.

A VLCD diet (very-low-calorie diet, a protein-sparing modified fast) contains mainly protein along with a small amount of carbohydrate and very few calories, usually fewer than 1000 per day. Just about anyone going on one of these diets will soon be in producing ketone bodies at a pretty high rate. But the same goes for a more traditional low-carb diet as well. If carbs are kept at a low level, ketosis will occur. In fact, it’s desired.

Ketone bodies are water-soluble products of fat metabolism. The body has three ways of dealing with ketones: it can burn them for energy (which it does with great success), it can release them in the urine (which is why Ketostix turn purple), and it can vent them through the lungs (ketones can be detected in the breath of one in ketosis).

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