The Pentagon is looking into the effects of a ketogenic diet, the popular and controversial eating plan that relies on fat and protein over carbohydrates, for its soldiers, the Washington Times reports.
“One of the effects of truly being in ketosis is that it changes the way your body handles oxygen deprivation, so you can actually stay underwater at [deeper] depths for longer periods of time and not go into oxygen seizures,” said Lisa Sanders, the director of science and technology at U.S. Special Operations Command, at a conference last month.
“That kind of technology is available today,” she added. “We can tell whether you are or are not in ketosis. We have really good indications of how to put you in ketosis. And we know statistically what that does to your ability to sustain oxygen.”
“The problem,” she said, “is I don’t have the authority to tell people — swimmers, submariners, etc. — that they’re going to get themselves in ketosis so they can stay in the water longer. That’s an authority question, not a technology question.”
However, the military could encounter trouble in trying to enforce an eating plan.
“For me, it smacks of the removal of free will from one of the most basic of biological functions: eating and consuming energy. It’s also one that misunderstands and misrepresents how a biological organism works,” said E. Paul Zehr, neuroscientist and biomedical research scholar at the University of Victoria in Canada. “Biological beings are not automatons or machines. You can’t just attempt to optimize one thing and not have it alter something else. All systems … exist in a balance.”