Ketogenic Diets for Seizures or Weight Loss

Karen Frazier
Pork chop and salad

A ketogenic diet plan has multiple applications. Originally used to control epilepsy and seizure disorders, low-carbohydrate dieters also utilize ketogenic diets as a method of weight loss.

Ketogenic Diet Plan

Ketogenic diets are high in fat, contain moderate levels of protein, and are low in carbohydrates. Many dieters assume that a ketogenic diet is the same thing as a traditional low-carbohydrate diet, such as Atkins; however, there are differences.

Ketogenic Diet for Seizure Disorders

For years, doctors have used a ketogenic diet to treat difficult to control epilepsy in children. By eating minimal carbohydrates, enough protein to spare lean tissue, and a high level of fat, the body is forced to utilize stored fat for fuel. When this happens, it produces ketones, which are a by-product of fat metabolism. In most cases, a ketogenic diet plan for epilepsy is undertaken under the supervision of a doctor or dietician, who prescribes and monitors the diet and its efficacy. Strict adherence to the diet is necessary to produce the desired results.

Doctors recommend testing the diet for a two-month period of time to judge its effects on the patient. The Epilepsy Foundation does not recommend undertaking a ketogenic diet without the direct supervision of a health care professional, because meal planning to reach the specific requirements of the diet can be difficult. This type of diet typically makes use of fatty meats, full-fat dairy such as heavy cream and butter, and mayonnaise in order to raise fat levels without raising carbohydrate or protein levels.

A traditional ketogenic diet for treatment of epilepsy requires that about 80 percent of a child's calories come from fat, with about 10 percent of calories each from protein and carbohydrates. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, about 1/3 of children on medically managed ketogenic diets become seizure free, and another 1/3 experience a reduction in the frequency of seizures. Children on a ketogenic diet typically follow the diet for about two years if it is helping, before parents begin to gradually introduce food back into the diet under careful medical supervision.

A sample menu of a ketogenic diet for a child with a seizure disorder may appear as follows:

Breakfast

  • Eggs scrambled in butter
  • Small amount of juice

Snack

  • Sugar-free peanut butter mixed with butter on celery

Lunch

  • Tuna salad with mayonnaise on lettuce
  • Root beer "float" made with diet root beer and heavy whipping cream

Dinner

  • Hamburger patty with cheese on lettuce
  • Orange soda made with diet orange pop and heavy whipping cream

Parents seeking a ketogenic diet for their children risk harm if they attempt the diet without medical supervision. Talk to your doctor to find out of a ketogenic diet is right for your child.

Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss

Weight loss ketogenic diets are less closely monitored than medical ketogenic diets. While the principles remain similar - high fat, moderate protein, and low-carbohydrate, they do not require the same level of medical monitoring. Most very low-carbohydrate diets, such as Atkins or Protein Power, induce ketosis as a byproduct of fat burning. These types of diets work for weight loss because they control the amount of insulin released into your bloodstream. When insulin is present, your body cannot burn stored fat. In its absence, as soon as your body depletes its stores of carbohydrates, then it begins to burn stored fat as its primary source of fuel. Meal plans for this type of a diet typically consist of fewer than 5 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per meal, with the rest of the calories from fat and protein. The diets also avoid sugar and starches.

Sample menus include:

Breakfast

  • Two slices of bacon
  • Two eggs, scrambled
  • Tea

Lunch

  • Grilled chicken breast
  • Salad with full-fat dressing
  • Water or diet soda

Snack

  • Hard boiled egg

Dinner

  • Steak
  • Creamed spinach

Diets that rely on high levels of fat and protein may be detrimental to health. Talk to your doctor before following a ketogenic diet.

Ketogenic Diets for Seizures or Weight Loss