The ketogenic diet is a diet with a strict ratio between fat and protein intake with very limited carbohydrates.
The ketogenic diet has been used for many years to treat children whose seizures are not responding to medication; however it is not usually used as a first-option treatment. There are now different forms of the diet and some less restrictive forms have been taken up by adults with epilepsy.
About 4 out of 10 children who try the ketogenic diet have their seizures halved. Some children have an even greater reduction. There are recognised epilepsy syndromes which respond well to the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet may also have some positive side effects, including improvements in mood, behaviour, attention, and social functioning. Improved mental alertness and behaviour have been seen in some children, even if seizure control hasn’t been obtained.
However, some families notice mood changes such as hyperactivity or irritability.
Like most forms of medical treatment, the diet does have side effects, mostly gastrointestinal. Occasionally severe side effects are experienced, so close monitoring by a dietitian and doctor is advised.