What the Heck is a Keto Diet?!

(Zentangle(R)-inspired illustration by Jenn Webster)

There happens to be a kind of dieting trend that is going around as of late, and I think that you followers of that certain diet know what that is: It is called the Keto diet…Yes, that’s right, you heard me, the KETO diet, K-E-T-O: Sounds like a Marx Brothers name or something!
Anyhoo, the real name for this Keto diet is called the ketogenic diet, and this diet is a high-fat, adequate, low-carbohydrate one, and that in medicine is used to primarily treat difficult-to-control epilepsy in children (yes, it is true). Rather than burn carbohydrates, the Keto diet forces the body to burn fats; In a normal sense, the carbohydrates that are contained in the food are then converted into glucose and is then transported around the body, and when it comes to fueling brain function, that is particularly important.
While evidence suggests that the Keto diet may be right for adults with epilepsy, there may also be downsides to the Keto diet, as in possible side effects that include high cholesterol, kidney stones, growth slowing, and constipation.

The ketogenic diet, or keto to those in the dietary know, has quite a backstory, so we must go back many years to find out how it all came to be: The treatment of epilepsy has been dating far back in history, beginning with physicians in ancient Greece, in which they treated such diseases by altering their patients’ diet. It was in France in 1911 that such treatment for epilepsy began, as in the form of the first modern study of fasting; 20 all-ages epilepsy patients consumed a low-calorie vegetarian diet, and then were “detoxified”, but not before having periods of fasting and purging.
Much later the ketogenic diet would become a mainstream dietary therapy developed to help reproduce the success while removing the limitations of the non-mainstream use of fasting to treat epilepsy. Despite the fact that that it became popular in the 1920s as well as the 1930s, the keto diet became abandoned and replaced by new drugs of the anticonvulsant kind.

       It was not until 1921 that a man by the name of Rollin Turner Woodyatt began reviewing research on diabetes and diet, reporting that b-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, and acetone, three water-soluble compounds, had been produced by the liver in otherwise healthy people either when they are starved or that they consumed a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. At the famous Mayo Clinic (in which I plan on doing a post about the history of in the future), Dr. Russell Morse Wilder began building on this research and then began coining the term “ketogenic diet”, in which describes a diet that would produce a high level of ketone bodies in the blood through an excess of fat and lack of carbohydrate.
Many years later, in October of 1994, the ketogenic diet began to achieve national media exposure; It was on the NBC News show Dateline that the son of Hollywood producer Jim Abrahams, Charlie, who is 2 years old at the time, had suffered from epilepsy that mainstream and alternative therapies cannot control. It was right there then that Abrahams discovered a reference to the keto diet in an epilepsy guide for parents, and then he brought his son to John M. Freeman at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The hospital continued to offer the therapy, and under the diet, Charlie Abrahams epilepsy was controlled rapidly while his developmental progress resumed.
That moment had inspired Jim Abrahams to create a charity called the Charlie Foundation to help promote the diet and to fund research; In 1997, Abrahams would produce a TV movie entitled …First Do No Harm, about a young boy’s epilepsy being successfully treated by that keto diet. The movie starred Meryl Streep.

       Now, I am not saying that the keto diet is for everyone; There are some people who might be daring enough to try the diet while others might be skeptical about it; And yes, there happen to be complications that come with the diet. Short-term side effects, which are common but easily treatable, include constipation, hypoglycemia, and low-grade acidosis. And yes, those who use the keto diet in the long term, especially in children, it increases the risk of stunted or even slowed growth, as well as kidney stones and bone fractures; The diet even reduces the levels of something called insulin-like growth factor 1, which happens to be so very important in terms of childhood growth.

       There happens to be more to the keto diet story than this post covers, so if you would like to learn a whole lot more about the ketogenic diet, or keto, please visit this link right here.



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