Ketogenic diet is one of the high-fat and low-carbohydrate diets. If you want to feel exceptionally light and be in a great mood, take the carbohydrates out of your daily menu and replace them with fats. This method is used, among other things, for treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children.
A ketogenic diet is a high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet. In our daily diet, we consume around 35% of fats, 50% of carbohydrates and 15% of proteins. In ketogenic diet, fats can supply around 80-90% of daily energy, and the other 10-20% would be supplied from both proteins and carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are body’s main source of energy. When they are missing, the body starts looking for another “fuel”. They are fats, specifically the fat ketones formed in the process of fat decomposition (so-called ketosis). However, they only provide the body with 70% of needed energy, it’s therefore malnourished. After a few days of ketogenic diet, people go into a state of euphoria (this is how the effects of ketones are described by doctors) – they’re in a good mood, cheerful and feeling light. After 2-3 months all of that goes away. It’s replaced by loss of appetite, drowsiness and constipation, sweat, urine and breath smell changes, and thirst grows.
Ketogenic diet- indications
The ketogenic diet has found use in the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy in children as well as some inborn metabolism defects (e.g. congested GLUT-1 glucose transporter deficiency). There are other indications for its use, such as Rett syndrome, Draveta syndrome, myoclonal-asthmatic epilepsy (Doose syndrome), tuberous sclerosis. There is also supportive treatment for ketogenic diet in autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, other types of epilepsy or some encephalopathies.
Ketogenic diet in epilepsy
Even until now, we cannot explain why ketogenic diets reduce the incidence of epileptic seizures. The high supply of fats with low levels of carbohydrates in the diet leads to changes in fat metabolism, similar to when someone is fasting. Fat builds up ketones in the liver: acetone, acetoacetate and betahydroxybutyric acid, which are absorbed into the central nervous system and are a substitute, in the absence of glucose, energy material for neurons. Ketosis, or high concentration of ketone bodies, is observed in the blood and urine of the patients. However, they only respond indirectly to anticonvulsant action. It is suspected that ketone bodies:
- increase the activity of enzymes synthesizing γ-aminobutyric acid (otherwise GABA – acts as the primary neurotransmitter with inhibitory effect throughout the nervous system), which slows neuronal activation
- activate the K2P potassium receptor and sodium-potassium pump, which raises the seizure threshold
In addition to that, ketone bodies can protect nerve cells against, among other things, damage from free radicals (limiting oxidative stress).