The Dangerous World of Dieting and False-Positives
Can low-carb diets influence breathalyzer results?
Andrew Riley, an American Airlines worker since 2012, was fired last year for blowing 0.05% on a breathalyzer test. This was his second failed alcohol breath test.
But while Riley claims that while the first results in 2013 were positive due to alcohol impairment, the second test taken last year produced a false-positive due to his recent transition into the Keto diet.
Having failed an earlier alcohol breath test in 2013, Riley, who up until recently had been employed as a flight attendant for American Airlines, faces permanent disqualification from the post. (The Department of Transportation maintains that if a flight attendant has two alcohol test violations, they are precluded from performing the safety-sensitive duties of a flight attendant for any employer.)
Today, Riley continues to fight for his old job back, citing the inaccuracy of this second test and the false-positive legacy that the Keto diet is coming to be known for.
The Keto diet, which denies the body of its carbohydrates in order to burn its fat reserves instead through a process known as “ketosis,” is classified as a very low-calorie diet, or a VLCD.
A 2006 study conducted by the National Board of Forensic Medicine and University Hospital in Linköping, Sweden discovered correlations between these sorts of diets and false-positive breath test results.
According to the study, ketogenic diets lead to ketonemia with high concentrations of acetone, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate in the blood. Breathalyzer tests, which are designed to determine alcohol (ethanol) in the breath by electrochemical oxidation, may be responding to these substances in the body instead, thereby producing false-positive results.
“This ‘side effect’ of ketogenic diets needs further discussion by authorities when people engaged in safety-sensitive work (e.g. bus drivers and airline pilots) submit to random breath-alcohol tests,” Drs. Jones and Rössner note.
Unfortunately, it seems that the Department of Transportation and American Airlines aren’t budging on the science behind Riley’s false-positive test results. Riley continues to fight to overturn his second test results, hoping to be reinstated as a flight attendant once more.
At the very least, Riley hopes that his case will inspire a change in the way that alcohol testing is done.
“I want them to use a more accurate test if someone is giving you a reason why this could possibly happen,” Riley told Fox News.
It bears noting that breathalyzer tests are notoriously tricky to calibrate. Even when properly calibrated, test results can be skewed due to higher body temperatures, cell phones, mouthwash, or more variables. Portable breathalyzers fare no better.
If Riley desires major developments in the ways that breath testing is conducted, he needn’t look further than Otorize.
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Using a scientifically proven test to assess impairment regardless of substance, this breakthrough mobile app offers an easy solution for detecting cognitive impairment.
Giving persons the opportunity to check their impairment on a mobile device, Otorize might just be the answer that Riley, and other Keto users, need.