The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low protein and low carbohydrate diet used as a treatment for epilepsy. The ketogenic diet may be ordered by the doctor for children who have severe forms of epilepsy that have not responded well to various drug treatments.

The diet is very high in fat, in the form of fatty foods such as butter, margarine, oil and cream. The diet contains enough protein for your child to grow and develop normally and very small amounts of carbohydrate foods.

No one is certain exactly how the diet works. Normally, your body breaks down the carbohydrates in the food you eat to glucose, the fuel for the brain. When you do not have enough carbohydrate (such as during starvation) your body starts to break down your fat reserves. When fat is broken down it produces a by-product called ketones. Your brain then starts to burn ketones for energy.

The ketogenic diet provides your child with enough energy to grow, but mimics the effects of starvation. The high fat content makes the body produce ketones in larger than normal quantities, and these are used by the brain for energy instead of glucose. It is the change in fuel for the brain that is thought to make the diet work. Not all children respond to the diet, but those that do may have fewer seizures of decreased intensity, and may even remain free from seizures for extended periods.

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