Health Watch -- Risky Weight Loss

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The way you go about trying to lose weight could have an impact on your health.

With all the talk about America's obesity epidemic, diet and weight loss have become popular subjects.

We're all looking for a quick, easy way to shed excess pounds. One diet craze that's swept the nation is the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. On this diet, you can eat a lot of meat, eggs and cheese as long as you avoid carbohydrates. Although that doesn't sound like a formula for weight loss, it does work to help people lose weight rapidly. But researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say this diet is not without risks.

The high-protein diet works by forcing the body to burn fat as fuel. The body needs energy to function, and it usually uses carbohydrates as a source of energy. If carbohydrates aren't available, the body has to find other energy sources, including fat. When the body has to burn fat as fuel, it forms ketone (key tone) bodies, which can build up in the blood and lead to a potentially fatal condition called ketoacidosis (key to acid o sis).

Excess ketone bodies in the blood make the blood more acidic, and that increases the risk for kidney stones and weaker bones. Dr. Chia-Ying Wang, a UT Southwestern researcher, and her colleagues recently conducted a study of high-protein diets and found that chemical changes caused by these diets not only make kidney stones more likely to form, but also hamper the work of cells that build bones.

Researchers are now looking at ways to counteract these possible health risks associated with high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets.