In general, a ketogenic diet is a strict diet that is rich in fats and low in carbohydrates. This diet causes the body to break down fats rather than carbohydrates, a condition known as ketosis. Research has shown that some children who maintain this diet may experience fewer seizures. Researchers are studying this relationship further in the hopes of developing new seizure-inhibiting drugs.
What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
Studies have shown that, in some cases, children with epilepsy may experience fewer seizures if they maintain a strict diet rich in fats and low in carbohydrates. Called the ketogenic diet, this causes the body to break down fats instead of carbohydrates for energy (a condition known as ketosis). With ketosis, the body creates high levels of ketones, which, besides providing energy for the body, may control epilepsy symptoms (this is one of the theories behind why the diet works).
This diet is not without controversy. Healthcare providers are not exactly sure how the diet works, there have not been any large studies to verify how successful it really is, and a ketogenic diet can be difficult to maintain.
Who Does This Diet Benefit?
The ketogenic diet dates back to the early 1920s, before effective epilepsy medications were available. However, because other treatments are now available, this plan is often only recommended in children with severe epilepsy symptoms that do not respond to several different seizure medications.
One of the most common types of epilepsy (see Epilepsy Types) for which this diet may be recommended is Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. The ketogenic diet is not usually recommended for adults with epilepsy.