Veeramachaneni Ramakrishna Rao Image Credit: Supplied

Social media and vernacular TV channels in the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana over the past few months are abuzz with a new fad being peddled by Veeramachaneni Ramakrishna Rao.

Well, peddling may be a wrong word for he doesn’t expect anything in return — all he wants is a patient hearing of his unending monologue eulogising the benefits of his diet regime. He says apart from losing weight, it helps in reversing type 2 diabetes. Wow!

He claims to have shed 30 kilos in less than three months following a diet that he devised and tried first on himself.

And what is his diet? It may spell K.E.T.O. but Rao, an accountant by profession, swears he had never heard about Keto diet until it was pointed out his is no different from the popular diet.

He believes the biggest culprit behind the increasing waistline and bulging bellies is everything refined: oil, flour, rice and sugar and "reckless eating". He says switching back to what the people ate a generation back is the ideal food for people from the subcontinent.

Rao, who claims he tipped in at 123 kilos and had tried all types of diets and exercises in vain, embarked on a diet based on four pillars: a) 70 to 100 grams of fat; b) 3 lemons; c) 4 litres of water and d) one vitamin tablet a day.

Hailed as "Aahara Maantriku" (diet magician in Telugu), he says traditional fats have been demonised and wrongly fed the notion that oils cause bad cholesterol. He suggests a switch over to healthy fats viz edible coconut oil, which he ranks as the best, followed by ghee (clarified butter), olive oil, butter and cream formed over yoghurt.

Rao suggests his tips work better if one keeps carbs to the minimum at least until the desired weight loss is achieved and binge on vegetable salads, curries and meats. And he goes on to debunk the myth that egg yolk is bad cholesterol and says we can happily eat up to six eggs a day.

But some items are strictly restricted to reap the benefits of this diet: potato, yam, colocasia and tapioca, as also beans and sugars.

Not a day passes without Veeramachaneni appearing on TV channel or the other, fielding uneasy questions from doctors, experts and dietitians who express fears over his diet plan, now popular as VRK diet, and consequences thereof.

He vociferously defends himself — armed with testimonies of hundreds of thousands, including several medical practitioners, who have themselves benefited from his diet.

To garner support for his claim that direct intake of virgin coconut oil and other fats can reverse diabetes, he invokes Dr P V Satyanarayana, a cardiologist from Guntur, with more than 16,000 heart operations to his credit. Dr PVS, who had been suffering from diabetes, claims in an interview now trending on YouTube, that he could control the malady by including healthy fats in his diet.

It is evident that millions are following Rao from the views for his videos in the social media. Not just that. Several people who have followed his diet have been posting recipes based on his diet programme. And their tribe is growing, attaining a celebrity cook status for themselves.

While the medical community is divided over the benefits of this diet or fears over its long-term side effects, Veeramachaneni is going about his mission of bringing health for all by changing lifestyle and eating habits. And he does this without charging a single rupee!

Am I going to try this diet? Well, I should consult my doctor first!

Sample diet:

1. Start the day with a glass of lukewarm water with one lime squeezed into it.

2. Breakfast: Eggs (scrambled, poached, omelette or boiled or curried with any vegetables; followed by a vitamin tablet.

3. Mid-morning: Clear vegetable or mutton/beef/chicken soup with any of the recommended fats stirred in.

4. Lunch: Salads with pepper and olive oil. (No salt) Vegetable curries cooked in coconut oil, olive oil, ghee or butter. Just a little bit of sea salt/rock salt.

5. Evening: Salad 

6. Last meal (before 7.30pm): Soup with fat to complete the daily recommended 70 grams of fat.

7. Vitamin tablet after the last meal 

A minimum of 4 litres of water has to be consumed throughout the day.

Lemons can be had either with water or thin butter milk. Veeramachaneni advises butter milk made with two spoonfuls of yogurt mixed with 1 and half litres of water.

If you feel you need more nourishment, 1) you may have grilled or tandoor  meat marinated in sea salt, chilly/pepper, turmeric, ginger-garlic paste and  home-made spice powder (garam masala) no more than 300 gm for men and 250 gm for women. 2) boiled, steamed, stir-fried or curried vegetables for lunch.

Note: No more than half an onion and one small tomato is recommended per day.

Items to be avoided: Food colouring, monosodium glutamate, milk, yogurt

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Nagarjuna Rao