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Ketogenic Diet Leads to Acetone Bad Breath

A high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet can produce acetone-smelling breath temporarily.

Q. I have been reading about the advantages of a ketogenic diet to lose weight and control blood sugar. I tried this in the past. I lost fat and felt healthy, but I had horrible acetone-smelling breath.

This was even mentioned in my student evaluations, not a good thing for a professor. Is there any way to avoid this?

A. A ketogenic diet gets very little of its energy from carbohydrates and most of it from fat. In this low-carb high-fat plan, protein intake is moderate. Under these conditions, the body burns fat for energy and produces chemicals called ketones as a by-product.

Such a diet helps with body fat loss and improves metabolic markers such as HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Acetone is one of the ketones your body makes, and it shows up in the breath when following a strict no-sugar no-starch approach.

According to Eric Westman, MD, a proponent of this diet, the acetone breath should eventually fade. Until it does, he suggests drinking plenty of water, brushing teeth (and tongue) regularly and chewing sugarless gum, mint leaves or cinnamon bark.

Would you like to learn more about the ketogenic diet and why it works so well to shed pounds? We recently had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Westman about his research and the low-carb approach to weight loss, blood sugar control and heart health. Show # 958 titled Flipping the Food Pyramid Upside-Down aired a few weeks ago. It will be free for another two weeks as an mp3 download from this link. Don’t miss this chance to get specific details about the pros and cons of the ketogenic diet.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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