Americans think of themselves as can-do people, but there is a battle they have been mostly losing for decades.

Today, 70 percent of Americans who have attained the age of 20 are overweight, and 38 percent are obese. A result of such flabby numbers has been widespread dieting, with mixed results.

A diet that has gotten some headlines in recent years is the ketogenic, or keto, diet. There is nothing new about its driving mechanism: the reduction of carbohydrate consumption. The Atkins diet of the 2000s also urged dieters to cut down on carbs, as does the "low carb, high fat" diet.

Atkins and LCHF can attain what the keto diet also seeks: ketosis, where the body obtains some energy from water soluble ketone bodies in the blood, as opposed to using blood glucose through glycolysis.

Health food stores are often visited by people following low-carbohydrate diets.

"People can ask for the keto bowl, but we call it the Protein Fat Bomb," said Eric McKee, who runs the kitchen at Oasis Health Foods. "We use turkey or chicken - usually turkey. It has coconut oil, which is a healthy fat. Some people have a personal preference for something like avocado."

McKee said creating a keto diet dish is difficult because carbs are ubiquitous.

"The Protein Fat Bomb is not on the menu," McKee said. "People have to ask for it, and we can tailor it. They usually want some modification. Sprouts have a few carbs, but they add a lot of flavor. Cheese is also good. I think it is also important to use ingredients that are delicious by themselves, so you can use them in other ways."

A number of Oasis customers are on the keto diet, and McKee said those who decided to follow it are taking on a serious regimen.

"The keto diet is pretty hardcore and challenging," he said. "If you absolutely have to lose weight, it is one way to do it, and we are a great place to find foods to follow the diet. Also, you need to have some carbs, and when you first go on the diet, your body has to adjust, and

a person can almost feel sick. We can help with the carb crash."

Though low-carb diets have enjoyed popularity for some time, they are not without controversy. While the diets have not been condemned outright by medical groups, there is skepticism.

The keto diet is recent, and there are few statements about its effectiveness, but commenting on low-carb diets in general, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wrote in 2005 that they are not conducive to long-term weight management.

The American Heart Association believes high-protein diets are tough on the heart, the American Dietetic Association stated in 2003 that too many calories of any kind cause weight gain, and several foreign health services have taken similar positions.

Conversely, the American Diabetic Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians, while not offering enthusiastic support for low-carb diets, have acknowledged them as a method of losing weight in the short term.

Since carbohydrates cause blood sugar to spike, most doctors advise diabetics to limit their intake.

"A lot of people want to lose weight," said Kenneth Gibson, D.O., of the NeoHealth clinic in Hulbert. "Let your doctor know if you plan to change your diet, and the diet should be monitored to adjust for any missing nutrients."

Heather Winn, family and consumer sciences educator for Oklahoma State University's Cherokee County Cooperative Extension Service, endorses a "rainbow diet" with sensible portions.

"As Extension educators, we recommend the diet on," Winn said. "It suggests a variety of lean meats, all different colors of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. You want to eat a lot of different foods, but also try to limit fat and sugar intake. They have long lists of foods for each category, and they promote a healthy diet, especially for children. We recommend these foods unless otherwise directed by your physician."

Winn also pointed to the necessity of being active. Calories ingested must be used.

"Part of what we do is teach yoga for kids and we have lots of programs in the schools," she said. "We go to the Head Starts and day cares. Not only do you need to eat healthy, but the calories in need to be equal to calories out to maintain a healthy weight."

What's next

A group of local residents has begun following the keto diet. In a few months, the Press will report on their progress.