Despite its development and efficacy in the 1920’s, the ketogenic diet has been highly criticized and ignorantly labeled as the etiological cause for high cholesterol and Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and other cardiometabolic disorders due to its high-fat macronutrient profile. Two populations that have shown an increased interest in the diet are children and the elderly. Can you use the ketogenic diet for children and the elderly?
Uses of the Ketogenic Diet
One of the first applications of the ketogenic diet was implemented in pediatric epileptic patients who suffered from drug-resistant seizures. Shortly after, new therapeutic agents had been developed and thus, the ketogenic diet further dissipated into the abyss of alternative forms of treatment.
Unfortunately, it remained there over the decades and continued to be demonized, especially since the low-fat diet era had gained momentum, becoming the new “standard” to achieve optimal health at that time. The reemergence of the ketogenic Diet came in the late 1970’s and since then, intensive efforts by both researchers and clinicians alike have made great strides to combat this negative dogma that has loomed over this high-fat and therapeutic diet for so many years. Simultaneous efforts had and still continue to be implemented to shift the paradigm that had been ingrained in individuals for far too long. Revival of the ketogenic diet, coupled with decades of intensive investigations, have demonstrated that it may serve as an effective, alternative form of treatment in diseases not limited to: cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Type 2 Diabetes and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Ketogenic Diet for Children
In spite of advancements in research, there is still a plethora of unwarranted criticism and scrutiny for the application of a ketogenic diet, especially in juvenile and elderly populations. It is unfortunate that ignorance by both the general public and medical professionals alike only further mask the vast and immense benefits that the ketogenic diet has to offer. Unbeknownst to many, even infants, immediately upon birth, can adopt a ketogenic metabolic state. As such, a mother’s breast milk mimics the nutrient profile associated with a ketogenic diet, including an increased Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) content. Furthermore, these infants, whom are exclusively breast-fed, will indeed remain in a ketogenic-state. More notably, the foundational and landmark studies which originally demonstrated the high-efficacy of the ketogenic diet for children and the treatment of epileptic seizures were performed in hundreds of children. The efficacy of the ketogenic diet in epileptic patients prompted further investigations for controlling seizures induced by hypoglycemia in Type 1 Diabetic patients. A case study, performed notably, in a juvenile, Type 1 Diabetic patient, was able to mitigate glycemic complications and improve biomarkers (e.g. Diabetic Ketoacidosis, HbA1C) associated with Type 1 Diabetes, in addition to marketed improvements in motor skills in addition to the alleviation of seizures.
Ketogenic Diet for the Elderly
It is also not uncommon for added scrutiny to occur in the aging population where a ketogenic diet is applied for therapeutic treatments and preventative medicinal purposes. However, intensive efforts, especially over the last decade, have been able to provide compelling and expansive data that demonstrates the high-efficacy of the ketogenic diet for not only slowing down the progression of, but serving as therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease due to its neuroprotective effects. Furthermore, the ketogenic diet has been shown to be the newfound glory in the aging realm due to its anti-oxidative properties and its ability to mitigate free-radical damage. Furthermore, the production of ketone bodies have also been shown to elicit muscle-sparing effects and thus prevent myocyte catabolism.
While criticism and scrutiny will continue to exist, promising research and education of both the general population and medical professions regarding the high-efficacy of the ketogenic diet will continue to fuel the progress for this paradigm shift.
2. Dressler, A., Reithofer, E., Trimmel-Schwahofer, P., Klebermasz, K., Prayer, D., Kasprian, G., Feucht, M. (2010). Brief Communication: Type 1 diabetes and epilepsy: Efficacy and safety of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia, 1086-1089.
Dr. Ashley E. Holly holds a B.A. in Microbiology from Miami University and a Ph.D. in Regulatory Biology from Cleveland State University/Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute. During her graduate work in the Department of Molecular Cardiology, Ashley investigated the molecular mechanisms and signal transduction pathways for the activation of cell adhesion molecules called integrins. Her comprehensive training includes structural, biochemical, and cellular biology techniques with a research focus in Vascular Biology. Her current interests include dietary intervention as a therapeutic treatment option as while obtaining a deep molecular understanding of the mechanisms for such application. Adopting the Ketogenic lifestyle, Ashley’s personal mission is to educate as many people as possible on its immense benefits as well as understanding its therapeutic application at the molecular level. Dr. Holly’s thirst for knowledge and desire for continuous growth both personally and professionally has resulted in the pursuit of an MBA degree while maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle as a competitive physique athlete.