(KUTV) -- The ketogenic diet is becoming more well known, because many adults are using it for weight loss. However, the diet isn’t new. It’s actually been helping treat kids with seizures for almost 100 years.
So what is it? The ketogenic diet focuses on changing the body’s main source of fuel. By limiting carbohydrates, the body is forced to use fat for fuel instead of glucose.
“When fat breaks down, it breaks down into something called ketones,” Tara Finnerty, Pediatric Dietitian at Primary Children’s Hospital said.
For children suffering from seizures, this diet can actually be an alternative treatment option when traditional medications are not working.
“When one to two medications, sometimes two, have failed, the likelihood of another medication working is very low, and the chance of a diet working is actually higher,” Finnerty said.
While it doesn’t work for every child, studies have shown a very positive association with ketosis and seizure control. Finnerty says anywhere from 50 percent of children can have 50 percent reduction in seizure control, and 10 percent can even have complete seizure freedom without medication.
Even though a diet is not a medication and may seem harmless to try, it’s important that children are closely monitored while transitioning to a keto diet.
“When we initiate a child who is an appropriate candidate on the ketogenic diet we actually bring them into the hospital for a 3-5 day admission,” Finnerty said.
By having a keto team – pediatrician, neurologist, and dietitian – look after a child, it allows them to make modifications to other medications and ensures a child is getting adequate nutrition and doing well while on the diet.
“It can be a wonderful form of treatment for children. It can be a life-saving treatment option for many children. But it just needs to be supervised with guidance from a physician and dietitian,” Finnerty said.
If a parent has already initiated the keto diet for their child on their own, it’s OK. However, Primary Children’s recommends reaching out to either them or your pediatrician to get proper guidance on the diet.