The ketogenic diet is indicated as an adjunctive (additional) treatment in children and young people with drug-resistant epilepsy. It is approved by national clinical guidelines in Scotland, England, and Wales and reimbursed by nearly all US insurance companies. Children with a focal lesion (a single point of brain abnormality causing the epilepsy) who would make suitable candidates for surgery are more likely to become seizure-free with surgery than with the ketogenic diet. About a third of epilepsy centres that offer the ketogenic diet also offer a dietary therapy to adults. Some clinicians consider the two less restrictive dietary variants—the low glycaemic index treatment and the modified Atkins diet—to be more appropriate for adolescents and adults. A liquid form of the ketogenic diet is particularly easy to prepare for, and well tolerated by, infants on formula and children who are tube-fed.
The Mayo Clinic Diet is the official diet developed by Mayo Clinic, based on research and clinical experience. It focuses on eating healthy foods that taste great and increasing physical activity. It emphasizes that the best way to keep weight off for good is to change your lifestyle and adopt new health habits. This diet can be tailored to your own individual needs and health history — it isn't a one-size-fits-all approach.
Without peer-reviewed clinical trials, many of the benefits remain anecdotal. For instance, Weiss himself has been on a low-carb high-fat (though not strictly ketogenic) diet for more than six months, and claims he does feel much better. But he’s clear about what he knows and what he doesn’t. He’s lost weight and his borderline pre-diabetes is gone.
The modified Atkins diet reduces seizure frequency by more than 50% in 43% of patients who try it and by more than 90% in 27% of patients. Few adverse effects have been reported, though cholesterol is increased and the diet has not been studied long term. Although based on a smaller data set (126 adults and children from 11 studies over five centres), these results from 2009 compare favourably with the traditional ketogenic diet.
So is a once-a-day salad a good habit? “In general, it’s a smart idea, but it depends on what’s in your salad,” says Turoff. “For a well-balanced meal, salads should have a protein source, like chicken or tofu, nonstarchy veggies,” and a dressing for fat, she says. People run into trouble, she adds, when their salads have nuts, dressing, cheese, and avocado, for a total of four servings of fat or more.
Everyone has heard about the importance of following a balanced diet, but how do you know what the right balance is? The goal of a balanced diet is to consume an appropriate amount of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Food can be divided into food groups according to its calorie and nutrient content. This means that you can consume any food within a food group and get a similar amount of nutrients. The amount of calories will depend on the amount that you consume.
It is important to find out from your doctor whether any medications that you take affect how your body uses what you eat. For instance, some medications cause a person to retain sodium, while others cause potassium loss. Methotrexate can lower folic acid levels, causing a variety of adverse symptoms that can be offset by taking additional supplements.
The ketogenic diet has been studied in at least 14 rodent animal models of seizures. It is protective in many of these models and has a different protection profile than any known anticonvulsant. Conversely, fenofibrate, not used clinically as an antiepileptic, exhibits experimental anticonvulsant properties in adult rats comparable to the ketogenic diet. This, together with studies showing its efficacy in patients who have failed to achieve seizure control on half a dozen drugs, suggests a unique mechanism of action.
Those issues can be part of what's known as the “keto flu,” Warren says. Other side effects of the keto diet, all of which are tied to carb withdrawal, can include lightheadedness, nausea, mental fog, cramps, and headaches, in addition to tiredness. Luckily, the keto flu doesn't usually last more than a week—which is coincidentally about when people start to see the number on the scale go down, says Warren.
The strategy worked for people whether they followed diets that were mostly low in fat or mostly low in carbohydrates. And their success did not appear to be influenced by their genetics or their insulin-response to carbohydrates, a finding that casts doubt on the increasingly popular idea that different diets should be recommended to people based on their DNA makeup or on their tolerance for carbs or fat.
But beyond that, experts aren't convinced that the keto diet has any other scientifically-proven health benefits. In fact, it may have some distinct downsides. If you follow the keto diet incorrectly, for example (like by eating lots of saturated fats, versus healthy unsaturated fats), you're at risk of raising your cholesterol levels. “The best strategy to keep your heart healthy is to get as much fat as possible from unsaturated sources such as olive, avocado and canola oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives," says Ansel.