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Ketogenic diets could influence breath test result

Some Ohio residents follow diets that are low in carbohydrates. When very few carbohydrates are consumed, the body depletes its glycogen reserves and begins to burn stores of fat for energy. This metabolic state is known as ketosis, and some academics believe that it can fool police breath-testing equipment. This is because the body produces acetone when the liver breaks down stored fat, and some of this organic byproduct is released in the breath as isopropyl alcohol.

The makers of the portable breath-testing devices used by police departments dismiss these claims, and they point out that the results of roadside toxicology tests are not generally considered proof of impairment in drunk driving cases. When motorists fail breath or field sobriety tests in the field, they are usually brought to a police facility for additional testing with sophisticated machines that use infrared spectroscopy to determine intoxication levels.

Experts concede that even the livers of individuals on strict ketogenic diets would not produce enough acetone to generate the isopropyl alcohol necessary to register a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher even if breath-testing devices were fooled. However, they could find it difficult or impossible to start vehicles equipped with ignition interlock systems. This is because interlock technology is designed to prevent vehicles from operating when blood alcohol concentrations as low as .02% are detected.

Criminal defense attorneys may question the validity of toxicology testing in several situations. Common medical conditions such as diabetes and acid reflux disease are known to skew breath test results, and even infrared spectroscopy equipment may be unreliable if it is not properly maintained and recalibrated on a regular basis. When their clients suffer from one of these conditions or records reveal that breath-testing equipment has been neglected, defense attorneys might seek to have OVI charges reduced or dismissed.

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