Ketogenic Diet Info

Information on the Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet is a special high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that helps to control seizures in some people with epilepsy. It is prescribed by a physician and carefully monitored by a dietitian. It is more strict, with calorie, fluid, and protein measurement and occasional restriction than the modified Atkins diet, which is also used today.
The name ketogenic means that it produces ketones in the body (keto = ketone, genic = producing). Ketones are formed when the body uses fat for its source of energy. Usually the body usually uses carbohydrates (such as sugar, bread, pasta) for its fuel, but because the ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, fats become the primary fuel instead. Ketones are not dangerous. They can be detected in the urine, blood, and breath. Ketones are one of the more likely mechanisms of action of the diet; with higher ketone levels often leading to improved seizure control. However, there are many other theories for why the diet will work.

Who will it help?

Doctors usually recommend the ketogenic diet for children whose seizures have not responded to several different seizure medicines. It is particularly recommended for children with the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Read more here...

What is it like?

The typical ketogenic diet, called the "long-chain triglyceride diet," provides 3 to 4 grams of fat for every 1 gram of carbohydrate and protein. The dietician recommends a daily diet that contains 75 to 100 calories for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight and 1-2 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. If this sounds complicated, it is! That's why parents need a dietician's help.
A ketogenic diet “ratio” is the ratio of fat to carbohydrate and protein grams combined. A 4:1 ratio is more strict than a 3:1 ratio, and is typically used for most children. A 3:1 ratio is typically used for infants, adolescents, and children who require higher amounts of protein or carbohydrate for some other reason.
The kinds of foods that provide fat for the ketogenic diet are butter, heavy whipping cream, mayonnaise, and oils (e.g. canola or olive). Because the amount of carbohydrate and protein in the diet have to be restricted, it is very important that the meals be prepared carefully. No other sources of carbohydrates can be eaten. (Even toothpaste might have some sugar in it!). For this reason, the ketogenic diet is supervised by a dietician. The parents and the child become very familiar with what can and cannot be eaten.

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Are there any side-effects?

A person starting the ketogenic diet may feel sluggish for a few days after the diet is started. This can worsen if a child is sick at the same time as the diet is started. Make sure to encourage carbohydrate-free fluids during illnesses.
Other side effects that might occur if the person stays on the diet for a long time are:
  • Kidney stones
  • High cholesterol levels in the blood
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Slowed growth or weight gain
  • Bone fractures
Because the diet does not provide all the vitamins and minerals found in a balanced diet, the dietician will recommend vitamin and mineral supplements. The most important of these are calcium and vitamin D (to prevent thinning of the bones), iron, and folic acid.
There are no anticonvulsants that should be stopped while on the diet. Topamax (topiramate) and Zonegran (zonisamide) do not have a higher risk of acidosis or kidney stones while on the diet. Depakote (valproic acid) does not lead to carnitine deficiency or other difficulties while on the diet either. Medication levels do not change while on the diet according to recent studies.

Ketogenic Diet Resources 

Other than the internet, there are several books about the ketogenic diet available.  One is The Ketogenic Diet: A Treatment for Children and Others with Epilepsy, by Drs. Freeman and Kossoff, which discusses the Johns Hopkins approach and experience   

Ketogenic Diet Support Blog   

Matthew's Friends  

Holiday Ketogenic recipes for kids

The Charlie Foundation 

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