The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used mainly to treat hard-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates.
Normally carbohydrates in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is important in fueling brain function. But if little carbohydrate remains in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies, the latter passing into the brain and replacing glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood (a state called ketosis) eventually lowers the frequency of epileptic seizures. Around half of children and young people with epilepsy who have tried some form of this diet saw the number of seizures drop by at least half, and the effect persists after discontinuing the diet. Some evidence shows that adults with epilepsy may benefit from the diet and that a less strict regimen, such as a modified Atkins diet, is similarly effective. Side effects may include constipation, high cholesterol, growth slowing, acidosis, and kidney stones.The original therapeutic diet for paediatric epilepsy provides just enough protein for body growth and repair, and sufficient calories to maintain the correct weight for age and height. The classic therapeutic ketogenic diet was developed for treatment of paediatric epilepsy in the 1920s and was widely used into the next decade, but its popularity waned with the introduction of effective anticonvulsant medications. This classic ketogenic diet contains a 4:1 ketogenic ratio or ratio by weight of fat to combined protein and carbohydrate.