The ketogenic diet is a rigid, strictly calculated and therapeutic diet that is very high in fats and very low in protein and carbohydrates. It is prescribed by a physician and carefully monitored by a dietitian, usually used to control seizures in some children with epilepsy.
Researchers at John Hopkins University studied 150 children with epilepsy. After 1 year on the ketogenic diet, ½ of the children had 50% fewer seizures. ¼ of the children reduced their seizures by 90%. After a few years on the diet, many of these children no longer needed medication. (“Ketogenic Diet Reduces Seizures In Many Children, Hopkins Researchers Find”, 2017)
However, there’s been some debate on the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet on adults. On one hand, it has been proven to be safe and effective in the adult and adolescent population with epilepsy. (Nei, Ngo, Sirven, & Sperling, 2014) However, studies have also suggested that adults have problems maintaining essential nutrients. Many adults simply do not want to use the diet because they find it unpalatable and difficult to follow. It is usually only recommended for people who are highly motivated and committed. (“Ketogenic Diet – Epilepsy Ontario”, 2017)
How does keto diet work, in relation to epilepsy?
This still remains a mystery. It has been recognized for centuries that fasting helps to stop seizures in some people. During fasting, the body breaks down fat to create a residue of ketone bodies in a process called ketosis. This creates a metabolic state that helps to prevent seizures. (Thiele, 2003)
As the years go by, researchers have found out that by reducing the number of carbohydrates a person eats (including pasta, bread, rice), the body is forced to burn fat for energy, creating the exact process as mentioned above- ketosis. (Thiele, 2003)
What is it like?
Usually, the diet is initiated in a medical center or a hospital. But the process really depends on the protocol of the center. However, the primary reason for admission in most centers is to monitor in any increase in seizures in the particular diet, ensure that all medications are carbohydrates free, and to educate the family and the patient.
What are the drawbacks of the diet?
The process of ketosis can cause a person feeling exhausted and “sluggish” for a few days, since their bodies are adapting to use fat as the main energy fuel.
They may also be lacking other essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are only found in carbohydrates and protein – which can lead to further health complication. Therefore, it is essential that you work with a physician and dietitian to ensure that you are being monitored regularly. The patient will also need to take dietary supplements to ensure that he or she is receiving the essential multivitamins and minerals.
As there are no in-depth and concluding studies that look at the side effects of a long term ketogenic diet, other complications may occur such as: kidney stones, high cholesterol level, dehydration, constipation, bone fractures, lowered immune system. Therefore, it is vital to consult your doctor before thinking of going on a ketogenic diet for your epilepsy. (“Ketogenic Diet”, 2017)
Eatology provides a ketogenic diet for clients who are interested. Of course, we highly encourage you to consult your doctor before signing up. For more information, please don’t hesitate to comment and/or contact us regarding the diet!
Ketogenic Diet Reduces Seizures In Many Children, Hopkins Researchers Find. (2017). ScienceDaily. Retrieved 22 May 2017, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011001071818.htm
Ketogenic Diet. (2017). Epilepsy Foundation. Retrieved 22 May 2017, from http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy/dietary-therapies/ketogenic-diet
Ketogenic Diet – Epilepsy Ontario. (2017). Epilepsyontario.org. Retrieved 22 May 2017, from http://epilepsyontario.org/about-epilepsy/treatments/non-drug/ketogenic-diet/
Nei, M., Ngo, L., Sirven, J., & Sperling, M. (2014). Ketogenic diet in adolescents and adults with epilepsy. Seizure, 23(6), 439-442. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.seizure.2014.02.015
Thiele, E. (2003). Assessing the Efficacy of Antiepileptic Treatments: The Ketogenic Diet. Epilepsia, 44, 26-29. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1528-1157.44.s7.4.x