Around 1920, the keto diet was first developed as a medically supervised therapy for epilepsy. In today's society, the specific diet has gained popularity more as a weight loss plan — sometimes even for kids.
The keto diet is a high-fat, extremely low-carb diet with some modest protein intake. People who follow this fad diet frequently consume more fatty meals and don't limit their intake of protein-rich foods.
A keto diet includes nuts, eggs, leafy greens, and other vibrantly colored foods. It has no tiny grains, bread, rice, pasta, fruits, sweets, or juice. A typical keto dish may look like butter, oil, avocado, heavy whipping cream, high-fat cheese, bacon, sausage, and fatty seafood like salmon.
Previously, researchers discovered that in hypertensive rats, the keto diet could improve behavioral symptoms of ADHD, increase neurotransmitter expression in the brain, and increase protein expression of genes linked to ADHD. The diet also increased the richness and diversity of the hypertensive rats' gut microbiota.
One study published in 2023 revealed positive correlations between the keto diet and many cardiometabolic and seizure-related measures, all supported by evidence of moderate to high quality.
Is the Keto Diet OK For Children?
There are differing views on the keto diet for kids. According to some, the keto diet should not be used to help kids lose weight since it restricts carbohydrates, and kids need carbs to stay cognitively and physically active.
While the keto diet restricts carbs to about 20 to 30 grams per day, children on a healthy, well-balanced diet should typically consume about 130 grams of carbohydrates daily, accounting for between 45 to 65% of their calories.
"Carbohydrates provide us with energy and important nutrients. Children need carbohydrates for growth and development, to do homework, to read books and to go outside and play."- Health Melissa Fossier, Registered Dietitian at Children's Health
Foods rich in fiber, a kind of carbohydrate, assist to encourage satiety and support weight management or weight loss. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grain fiber help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent constipation.
Children and adults may have some early adverse symptoms of ketosis, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, and irritability.
The ketogenic diet may also impair attention and concentration, result in nutritional shortages, raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels, weaken bones, and induce kidney stones.
Eric C. Westman, the Director of the Duke Keto Medicine Clinic, says nutritional ketosis means fat burning.
"If you define the keto diet as a 'real food,' low carbohydrate diet, then yes, the keto diet can be safe for kids. It is safe for anyone," he says.
The special diet focuses on ketone bodies, a form of fuel that the liver creates from stored fat, rather than on sugar or glucose derived from carbs.
Westman adds that babies are born in ketosis, a metabolic condition whereby the body uses fat as fuel rather than glucose and that everyone goes into ketosis if they don't eat for two to three days. He adds that carbohydrates are not required in the diet. The goal of the keto diet is to make the body use a new kind of energy.
Keto Diet and kids with epilepsy
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says that children with epilepsy who do not respond well to medication or are not good surgical candidates may benefit from the ketogenic diet as a form of therapy.
This extremely high-fat diet has been used to treat epilepsy for about 100 years. In almost 66% of kids, seizures are reduced by more than 50%, and up to 25% of kids can stop having seizures.
On the diet, a tiny percentage of children may stop having seizures. Anti-epileptic drug dosages can be decreased for certain kids, reducing pharmaceutical adverse effects. Additionally, several families mention behavior, intelligence, growth, and awareness changes.
Keto diet benefits
According to experts, several benefits of the keto diet are only long-term in the sense of two years or less.
Most experts concur that the keto diet is challenging and that switching diets and consuming carbohydrates in moderation are frequently more sustainable for long-term health.
A 2013 Nutrients study found that a biphasic KEMEPHY diet, which is based on the traditional Mediterranean diet and combines the keto diet, separated by more extended periods of maintenance nutrition, led to successful long-term weight loss and improvements in health risk factors in the majority of subjects.
Overall, putting kids on a keto diet is up to the parents. Weigh the positives and negatives and see what solution will offer your child the healthiest option. It might not be a solution for all diseases or concerns, but it could be what works for your lifestyle.
- BMC Medicine. Effects of ketogenic diet on health outcomes: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Should you try the keto diet?
- CHOP. Ketogenic Diet for Kids.
- Great Ormond Street Hospital. Ketogenic diet: overview.
- Children's Hospital Association. Is keto safe for kids?