Ketogenic Diet: When Is It Right For My Child?

At Le Bonheur, the ketogenic diet is sometimes recommended for patients with uncontrolled seizures who aren’t seeing the relief they need with medicine, or for patients whose prescribed drug therapy leaves them feeling tired and lethargic. The diet is managed by clinical dietitians who are trained in this special diet. Meals are typically high in fat and low in carbohydrates, while meeting protein needs. The diet produces ketones, which alter the brain’s metabolism, changing its energy use and reducing seizure activity. Le Bonheur Clinical Dietitian, Lindsay Walsh, MS, RD, CSP, LDN, CLC, answers some questions and gives recommendations about the diet below.

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

  • The Ketogenic Diet is a high fat diet used to treat uncontrolled seizures. The diet is calculated to a specific ratio (fat: carbohydrate + protein) and calorie level. All foods must be carefully prepared and weighed on a gram scale. The diet must be supervised by an experience team and is not to be undertaken without medical supervision.

Will the Ketogenic Diet cure my child’s seizures?

  • About 1/3 of children with uncontrolled seizures experience greater than 90% seizure control and half of those become seizure free.
  • About 1/3 of children experience a 50% reduction in seizures.
  • The remaining 1/3 discontinue the diet.

If my child doesn’t have seizures, can she benefit from the Ketogenic Diet? The only other conditions that are appropriate for the ketogenic diet are two forms of inborn errors of metabolism: Glut-1 Syndrome and Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Deficiency

Is the diet Healthy?

  • The diet alone is not complete.
  • Supplements are used to meet vitamin and mineral needs. These typically include:
    • A multivitamin, calcium, vitamin D, etc.
    • 150-200% DRI for calcium and vitamin D
  • Sometimes a ketogenic formula designed to meet specific ratios of fat to carbohydrate and protein is used. These are fortified with vitamins and minerals to meet daily recommended requirements.

I’ve heard that the Ketogenic Diet can help me lose weight as well. Would you recommend it for adults who don’t have seizures? The ketogenic diet for weight loss that is popular right now is more closely related to the Dr. Atkins diet. I would not personally recommend this diet for anyone looking to lose weight. I would recommend working with an outpatient dietitian who specializes in weight loss to determine a diet to meet an individual’s goals.

Where can I get more information?