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The keto diet has been gaining popularity in recent years as a way to lose weight, but it was first created back in the 1920’s as a way to treat epilepsy, particularly in children. We want to bring that use-case back into focus!

Epilepsy affects around 50 million people worldwide, causing recurrent electrical discharge in the brain that can result in anything from moments of inattention to severe convulsions.

One of the key factors behind the ketogenic diet’s success in reducing seizures, is the role of microbes in the gut. Research has shown that changes in gut microbiota can significantly impact brain function. The ketogenic diet appears to promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. According to studies, approximately 30% of children with treatment-resistant epilepsy become seizure-free on the keto diet, while about 60% experience significant improvements with a reduction in seizure frequency of more than half.

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. By depriving the body of glucose, it is forced to burn fat instead of glucose for energy. This metabolic shift produces ketones, which can help reduce seizures by stabilizing the electrical activity in the brain. Even 100 years later, the exact mechanism behind this effect has yet to be fully understood.

The original therapeutic application fell out of favor in the 1940’s when effective anticonvulsant medications became widely available.

Recent studies have suggested that the gut microbiome may play a key role in the ketogenic diet’s effectiveness. In one study, researchers found that a ketogenic diet altered the gut microbiota in mice, leading to an increase in a type of bacteria known to produce anti-inflammatory compounds. This, in turn, reduced the severity and frequency of seizures in the mice.

Another study found that the ketogenic diet increased the levels of a specific type of bacteria in the gut that produces a molecule known as GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate brain activity, and low levels of GABA have been linked to epilepsy and other neurological disorders.

These findings suggest that the ketogenic diet’s protection against epileptic seizures may be due in part to the role of gut microbes in regulating brain function. While further research is needed to understand this connection fully, it offers promising insights into the potential benefits of dietary interventions for neurological disorders.

While it is not a cure, nor a perfect therapy (side effects like high cholesterol and kidney stones are very possible), it offers a promising avenue for treatment for those looking to avoid medication or for those whom medication doesn’t work.