Ketogenic Diet and Epilepsy

The ketogenic diet has become a popular weight loss fade.  Most people don’t even know what the diet entails and how it works.  The ketogenic diet:

  • 4:1 or 3:1 ratio of fat and protein to carbohydrates is recommended
  • High intake of fat and low intake of carbohydrates forces the body into ketosis
  • Body is burning fat as its main fuel source
  • Liver is converting fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies
  • Lowering glucose levels in individuals

The ketogenic diet was designed by Dr. Russell Wilder in 1924 at the Mayo clinic.  The diet was designed to treat children and adolescences with seizures.


With the advancement of medications to control seizures, the diet lost popularity.  In the U.S. a two-year-old boy with uncontrolled seizures was put on the ketogenic diet and was later seizure free.  With this story a renewed interest in the ketogenic diet has emerged.  The results were:

  • First randomized trial was carried out in 2008 by Neal et al (2008)
  • The diet was studied for tolerability and the results were positive
  • Use of the diet increase to 50% in the U.K.
  • The ketogenic diet is being used in over 50 countries (2)

The exact biological reason for the reduction in seizures is still not understood, but the results of the diet have been documented countless times.  The ketogenic diet could be another way that dietitians could increase the health and quality of life if the problem presented itself.

The ketogenic diet has shown to help with uncontrolled seizures and has shown that it can be a possible treatment.  Unfortunately, the diet can have negative health effects as well.  Some of the effects are:

  • Dyslipidemia
  • Changes in the lipid profile
  • Increased chance of cardiovascular disease
  • Growth retardation
  • Nephrolithiasis

The recommended duration of the diet treatment is 2 years. (1)  The patient needs to be monitored closely and diet changes need to be implemented to ensure that the overall health of the patient is also being taken care of.


With the ketogenic diets effect on uncontrolled seizures is just another way that Dietitians can have a positive health outcome for patients.  Food is one of the best “drugs” for overall health of patients.  When a certain diet can have such positive outcomes for a patient’s overall quality of life, it begs the question of where we go from here.  What will the next 50 years hold for medical nutrition therapy and positive outcomes of food and diet on the worlds overall health?  What an exciting time to be a dietitian.

Written by Idaho State University Dietetic Student,

Cecilia Watson

(1) Lima, P. A., Sampaio, L. P., & Damasceno, N. R. (2015). Ketogenic diet in epileptic children: Impact on lipoproteins and oxidative stress. Nutritional Neuroscience, 18(8), 337-344. doi:10.1179/1476830515y.0000000036What is the ketogenic diet. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2016, from
(2) Southern, L., Fitzsimmons, G., & Cross, H. (2015). The ketogenic diet in drug-resistant epilepsies. British Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, 11(3), 137-141. doi:10.12968/bjnn.2015.11.3.137
(3) What is the ketogenic diet. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2016, from


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