Epilepsy Program

Ketogenic Diet

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is a diet high in fat content and is usually reserved for epilepsy patients that have tried two anti-convulsant medications without relief from seizures. Ketogenic diets seem to alter brain function and decrease seizure activity.

What is the goal of a ketogenic diet?

The goal of the diet is to get your body to produce ketones, which cause the body to use fat instead of glucose for energy. Ketone bodies are compounds that are produced as by-products when fatty acids are broken down for energy.

How does a ketogenic diet work?

If carbohydrates (which are composed of sugars) are eliminated from your diet, and a diet very high in fat is substituted, the body has no dietary sources of glucose. In the event of low blood glucose, most other tissues have additional energy sources besides ketone bodies (such as fatty acids) but the brain does not. After your diet has been changed to lower blood glucose for three days, the brain gets 30% of its energy from ketone bodies. After four days, this goes up to 70%.

As a result, ketones are made from the available sources and these are used as fuel instead. Even a very small amount of sugar can cause your body to shift to glucose production and use, which it prefers to ketones. For example, this restriction is such that children on the diet have to be careful to take sugarless daily multivitamins. Some children with epilepsy have been helped by adopting a rigid diet that is high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates.

Elevated levels of ketones in the body of individuals with epilepsy may be associated with seizure control and seizure freedom.

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