The Origins of Keto as a Successful Treatment for Epilepsy

The ketogenic diet or keto diet was developed and used prominently throughout the 1920s and 30s to treat epilepsy. Epilepsy is a common chronic noncommunicable disease that results in habitual seizures occurring within diagnosed patients. More than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it the most common neurological disease throughout the world.

The body processes the metabolic activity of the diet comparatively to fasting, which has health benefits that can be traced back to ancient Greece, where early treatise in the Hippocratic Corpus explain how changes in diet can aid in managing epilepsy. While having epilepsy may seem like a persistent burden to one’s life, changes to a person’s lifestyle and routine could reduce the possibility of a seizure from occurring. Research has shown that ketogenic diets aid in the prevention of epileptic episodes. Following the dietary guidance of keto could prove to both improve one’s resistance to seizures as well as their general health.

How It Works

Based on the understanding that fasting helps reduce the frequency of seizures, the ketogenic diet consists of consuming foods that are high in fat, low in carbohydrates, and focused on protein. Through the metabolic process of ketosis, chemicals known as ketones are produced from fat that is processed by the body for energy. As opposed to glucose, which is produced from carbohydrates, ketones are mostly used as an energy source by the body when a ketogenic diet is being practiced. This diet has recently seen a surge in popularity for its effectiveness in weight loss, however its initial conception was for the relief of seizures among patients with epilepsy. Up to 70% of people with epilepsy are able to control their seizures with anti-epileptic drugs, but for those still prone to episodes, the keto diet could prove to be beneficial.

Monitoring a Keto Diet

Ketogenic diets are specialized per person based on their own dietary needs. An experienced dietitian is required in order to create a guide for the type of food a patient is able to eat. Due to the diet’s restrictive nature, vitamins and mineral supplements are recommended by the dietitian. It’s important to monitor the rate at which the body is producing keto electrolytes; an amount above 1.5 millimoles per liter means the patient is at the risk of developing ketoacidosis. If this occurs, a healthcare specialist should be sought out immediately.

Reduced Frequency of Seizures

Despite advancements in medicine and the continued production of anti-epileptic drugs, the keto diet still proves to benefit those who suffer from chronic seizures. Studies conducted on children with epilepsy have shown that 4 in 10 children who start the diet had their seizures reduced by over half in frequency. They also experienced an increase in their ability to predict when an episode was about to occur. Those who discontinued the diet after its prescribed duration also reported a significant decrease to the frequency of seizures, or to have stopped experiencing them entirely.

The ketogenic diet remains a viable way for individuals diagnosed with epilepsy to regulate the frequency at which they experience seizures. Effective in both children and adults, the keto diet can be adopted by most individuals as a beneficial means to regulate one’s medical conditions and lifestyle.