The ketogenic diet became popular as a therapy for epilepsy in the 1920s and 1930s. However, the diet was eventually largely abandoned due to the introduction of new anticonvulsant therapies. The ketogenic diet is a diet rich in fat, adequate protein and low in carbohydrates that in medicine is mainly used to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates.
Normally, carbohydrates from food are converted into glucose, which is transported throughout the body and is important for fueling brain function. But if there are few carbohydrates left in the diet, the liver converts the fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies, the latter of which pass into the brain and replace glucose as a source of energy. A high level of ketone bodies in the blood (a state called ketosis) ultimately reduces the frequency of epileptic seizures. About half of the children and young people with epilepsy who have tried some form of this diet have seen the number of seizures reduced by at least half, and the effect persists after stopping the diet.
Some evidence shows that adults with epilepsy can benefit from the diet and that a less strict regimen, such as the modified Atkins diet, is equally effective. Side effects may include constipation, high cholesterol, growth retardation, acidosis and kidney stones. Fasting and other dietary regimens have been used to treat epilepsy since at least 500 BC. To mimic the metabolism of fasting, modern physicians introduced the ketogenic diet (KD) as a treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s.
For two decades this therapy was widely used, but with the modern era of anti-epileptic drug treatment its use declined dramatically. By the end of the 20th century this therapy was only available in a small number of children's hospitals. In the last 15 years, there has been an explosion in the use and scientific interest in Kawasaki disease. This review traces the history of one of the most effective treatments for childhood epilepsy.
In my 33 years of working with nutritional therapies, none come close to the remarkable results I have seen achieved with ketogenic diets. I have had the honour of working with hundreds of people on this diet, which has taken me all over the world, where together with the Charlie Foundation we have trained over 200 hospitals in ten countries. Our product selections are tested by the editor and approved by experts. We can earn a commission through links on our site.
Meet the bodybuilders, biohackers, scientists, doctors and hucksters behind the hottest thing in nutrition. When the body doesn't have enough glucose for energy, it burns stored fats instead. This results in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body. For ketosis to begin, it is usually necessary to eat less than 50 grams of carbohydrate per day and sometimes as little as 20 grams per day.
However, the exact carbohydrate intake that will trigger ketosis varies from person to person. An individualised, structured diet containing highly ketogenic medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which allows more carbohydrate and protein intake than the classic keto diet. A modified version, with 80 percent fat, 15 percent protein and 5 percent carbs, has emerged as the most popular, and keto cycles (doing one keto week a month) became a thing. Recent research by Phinney showed that those who followed a ketogenic diet and received dietary counselling for a year significantly reduced their use of diabetes medications and lost an average of 9 kilos.
The ketogenic diet could, according to the press release, "slow the aging process and may one day allow scientists to better treat or prevent age-related diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer's and many forms of cancer". A common goal of people following the keto diet is to reach ketosis, a natural state in which the body burns fat for fuel. Modifying the restriction of the classic ketogenic diet can be helpful when starting the diet, or when tapering down to a more sustainable diet in the long term. The ketogenic (keto) diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that results in weight loss and provides numerous health benefits.
The idea that a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet could benefit certain people was put aside by the medical community until ketogenic diets began to be used clinically in the 1920s. As ketosis breaks down the body's fat stores, some ketogenic diets aim to facilitate weight loss by creating this metabolic state. The ketogenic diet is usually started in combination with the patient's existing anticonvulsant regimen, although patients may be able to stop taking anticonvulsants if the diet is successful. It is not entirely clear when the ketogenic diet first attracted attention as a weight loss solution, but in the early and late 1990s it was dominated by the Atkins diet, and the eating plan with a similar carbohydrate perspective.
And because people doing keto often lack nutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium and fibre, there has been a supplement gold rush for the brands behind the products that make staying on the diet easier. A classic keto diet consists of 90 per cent of calories from fat, six per cent from protein and four per cent from carbohydrates. However, the no-sugar principle of Banting's diet was the same as the current keto technique, which is used therapeutically to treat epileptic seizures and holds promise for controlling type 2 diabetes. And, in fact, the keto diet is associated with an increase in bad LDL cholesterol, which is also linked to heart disease.