The History of the Ketogenic Diet, What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The Ketogenic Diet

The Ketogenic Diet was not always the weight loss regimen it is known as today, the Ketogenic Diet has its roots in the treatment of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder which is characterized by seizures, unusual behavior, sensations and sometimes even loss of awareness, caused by abnormalities in brain activity. In the Hippocratic collections, these epileptic events were usually treated by fasting. There is even mention of epilepsy being treated using fasting in Biblical times. It is this primitive form of epilepsy treatment that the Keto diet is used to replace, as the Keto diet puts your body in a state that mimics fasting while also still allowing you to eat, making it a sustainable alternative to fasting. 

 What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The Ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet which aims to change your body’s fuel source. It does that by lowering your carbohydrate intake below a certain level and increasing your fats and lipids intake. What does this do? Normally your body gains energy when your cells break down carbohydrates; however, this is not the only fuel your body can run on. Your body has a backup plan for the instances where there are not enough carbohydrates for you to burn, in these circumstances your body starts processing fats instead. This state is called ketosis and it is actually the state your body would go in if it were starving. 

How was the Ketogenic Diet Formulated?

In 1921, two things happened: 

  1.  Woodyatt noticed that a high fat low carbohydrate diet could mimic the effects of starvation without actually starving. 
  2. Dr. Wilder of the Mayo clinic proposed that the fat burning properties of fasting could be mimicked without the actual fasting and proposed that a Ketogenic Diet be tested in a series of trials on epileptic patients. His report on the findings of this trial coined the term Ketogenic Diet. 

Once it was discovered that this worked, reports and experiments utilizing the Ketogenic Diet were plentiful.  Usage of the Keto Meal Delivery was recorded in almost every textbook about epilepsy in children that was published between 1941 and 1980. Until the advent of epileptic medication which resulted in the abandonment of the Ketogenic diet as a treatment for epilepsy.

That all changed when NBC-TV’s Dateline aired a program on the treatment of a 2-year old boy Charlie. Charlie’s seizures were not responding to medication so out of desperation, the family sought help from Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment. His doctors started him on the Ketogenic diet and he soon was seizure-free. His father then formed The Charlie Foundation, the purpose of which was to disseminate videos for parents and instructional videos for physicians and dietitians about the Ketogenic Diet. His father even directed a Pro-Keto film called ‘First Do No Harm’ starring Meryl Streep.

This Keto advocacy caused the Ketogenic diet to once more become a hot topic of conversation in the medical community and the buzz has never really died down since then.

Nowadays you can get keto meal delivery and there are even Chefs who specialize in Ketogenic foods. There are Buzzfeed articles which detail people’s journey on 30-Day Keto trials, and testimonials of numerous persons who found weight loss success on the diet. However before meal delivery and epileptic medication was a thing, the Keto diet was used in the treatment of epileptic seizures. 

The ketogenic diet has evolved from a means of controlling epileptic seizures to a weight loss and lifestyle choice. The evolution of this dietary plan has been an interesting one and it will be equally as interesting to see what it evolves into next.