June 27 - More people die in the world from obesity than famine. A Florida doctor is hoping to change that one patient at a time with a controversial diet that has raised eyebrows among health care professionals but has its obese dieters reaching their dreams of weight loss. Evelyn Gruber reports.
STORY: It's the moment of truth for Paolo Cometto. UPSOUND - COMETTO ON SCALE - "Two-thirty-six, Two-twenty-four. That's twelve!" Cometto hasn't eaten in 10 days and he's lost 12 pounds. He is one of the first people in the United States to complete the K-E diet - feeding his body a liquid cocktail of fats and nutrients - just 800 calories a day - via a feeding tube inserted through his nose. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PAOLO COMETTO, DR. DI PIETRO'S K-E DIET PATIENT, SAYING: "For me it was kind of a life saver because I was able in a very short period of time to drop weight, regain the willingness to move. If I had to do like a block, forget it, I had to take the car and I lost all the problems that are related to overweight." This extreme diet is being offered by Dr. Oliver Di Pietro, a board certified MD who says, that over the past 20 years - patients visiting his family practice in Miami, have been getting fatter and fatter… (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. OLIVER DI PIETRO, DOCTOR WHO BROUGHT THE K-E DIET TO THE U.S., SAYING: "This diet is intended to help physicians in this war against obesity that we all have to wage as a society and it's just one of many ways patients and doctors have to allow their patients to lose weight. It's not intended as a vanity diet, but this is evidence-based medicine. It has science behind it." He says the diet is based on changing the bodies' fuel supply by putting it into a deep state of ketosis - a state where the body burns it's stored fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. Linda Lee is more than half way through the diet. She says she's can't remember the number of failed diet regiments she's tried in the past. She says the K-E diet is working for her because she doesn't get hungry. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LINDA LEE, AUTHOR AND FREELANCE WRITER, SAYING: "You can do very extreme things and your body is designed for feast and famine. The problem is we have feast, feast, feast, feast, feast and we never get to famine." (SOUNDBITE) (English) VICKI HATCH, REGISTERED DIETICIAN, SAYING: "So you have the mother that's going to go to the school to pick up the child with the tube? What kind of message are you telling your kids or the younger generation about what it takes to live a healthy life? That's Vicky Hatch, a dietician and nutritionist, who says that famine isn't the answer. She describes the diet as a short term fix to a long term problem. She says changing how much and what people eat is the only way to achieve long term results. (SOUNDBITE) (English) VICKI HATCH, REGISTERED DIETICIAN, SAYING: "The rate of regaining the weight after these short term diets is probably A hundred percent. I mean I'm sure there's a few people that sneak through, but the reality is no - basically you've lost time and money when you're investing in these short term weight loss regimens." Di Pietro says the dangers of obesity - which the World Health Organisation rates as one of the leading causes of death on the planet - far out weigh the risks associated with his diet . (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. OLIVER DI PIETRO, DOCTOR WHO BROUGHT THE K-E DIET TO THE U.S., SAYING: "Even if you lose ten pounds in ten days, if you do this several times a year, you could lose an enormous amount of weight and reduce the need for bariatric surgery, gastric bypass. To me these are extreme ways to lose weight." Di Pietro is the first to admit that the K-E diet isn't for everyone. But he says the sense of achievement on his patients' faces after 10 days on a feeding tube diet and their determination to keep off the weight off - makes is worth the controversy. Evelyn Gruber, Reuters