The ketogenic diet is a way of eating that changes the body’s fuel source from glucose (sugar) to ketones (fat). This is done by strictly limiting carbohydrate (sugar and starch) intake, eating a moderate amount of protein and increasing fat intake. Ketones are produced in the liver from the breakdown of fat. In addition the diet lowers glucose levels and improves insulin resistance.
Ketogenic diet therapy for epilepsy has been noted in the medical literature for almost 100 years. Typically this therapy has been used for people with medicine resistant (refractory) epilepsy which accounts for approximately 30% of people with epilepsy. However, the diet can also be beneficial for individuals who have adverse side effects to anti-seizure medications or those looking for a non-medicine approach to treatment. Multiple studies have shown that the ketogenic diet benefits at least 50% of the individuals who comply with the diet recommendations. In recent years scientific evidence is emerging to utilize ketogenic diet therapy for cancer, autism, ALS, migraines, Parkinson's Disease, traumatic brain injury, and obesity related illnesses including hypertension, insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes.
The ketogenic diet is a medical treatment that should not be started alone. Ketogenic diet therapy should be closely monitored by a knowledgeable dietitian and your physician. Baseline lab work should be done before starting the diet and every 3 months while on the diet. Like most treatments, there is a risk of side effects including dehydration, constipation, acidosis, and sometimes kidney stones. Pancreatitis, decreased bone density, and slowed growth have also been reported. This is why it is very important that a knowledgeable medical team is involved with anyone on a ketogenic diet as they can help prevent and manage side effects along with providing guidance to optimize success.
The main food staples of the ketogenic diet include a fat, protein and small amount of carbohydrate (such as non-starchy vegetables or berries). Common fat sources include oils, avocados, butter, heavy cream, and bacon. Protein sources include beef, poultry, eggs, cheese and fish. Vegetables are a great way to contribute healthy fiber and just a small amount of carbohydrates. Beverages include water, unsweetened coconut/almond milk, and/or unsweetened/sugar-free liquids. Supplements are always recommended including at a minimum a multivitamin, calcium and vitamin D supplement. Other supplements may be necessary and/or beneficial based on individual needs. Always keep in mind that each person's ketogenic diet meal plan is individualized to their energy needs, lifestyle, health and preferences.
Book: The Ketogenic and Modified Atkins Diets: Treatments for Epilepsy and Other Disorders, 6th edition by Eric Kossoff & others
Book: The Art and Science of Low Carb Living by Jeff Volek and Steve Phinney