Request an Appointment Online, or call us at (888) 824-0200

The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Ketogenic Diets for Pediatric Epilepsy Treatment

Ketogenic diets are widely accepted and effective dietary regimens prescribed for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy. A ketogenic diet is traditionally offered when medication alone fails to control a child's seizures. Experts do not fully understand exactly how a ketogenic diet works -- and, it may not be an effective treatment option for every child. Yet, we do know that some children stop having seizures or have reduced seizure frequency with these prescribed medical diets.

At the Pediatric Epilepsy Center, we offer the classic ketogenic diet and a modified Atkins Diet (MAD). Our multidisciplinary team provides highly specialized care and consultation, along with the combined expertise of pediatric neurologists, pediatric epileptologists, a ketogenic dietitian, pediatric neurology nurses, a social worker and a case manager.

For More Information

The Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies offers educational information and resources to help patients and families learn more about ketogenic diets.

Ketogenic Diets: Questions and Answers

A ketogenic diet consists of a high percentage of calories from fat, with an adequate amount of protein and a low percentage of carbohydrate intake, depending on the type and ratio of the diet. Ketogenic diets are meticulously customized according to each child’s calorie requirement and nutritional status.

Experts do not fully understand how ketogenic diets control seizures. The high-fat, low-carbohydrate combination causes the production of ketone bodies, which are substances produced as a result of fat breaking down in the body. It is believed that the process of ketosis has an anti-seizure effect.

If your child’s neurologist prescribes a ketogenic diet, be sure to follow instructions precisely for the best results. For example, if your child consumes too many carbohydrates, his or her body may not produce ketone bodies and the diet will not work.

Ketogenic diets are traditionally used as a treatment option for drug-resistant (intractable) epilepsy. These are children whose seizures are not completely controlled after trying two appropriate antiepileptic medications.

Your child's neurologist has the expertise to conduct a thorough medical evaluation and determine whether or not a ketogenic diet could be an appropriate treatment option. Parents should not start a child on a ketogenic diet without specific recommendation, instruction and supervision from the child's neurologist.

Neurologists may prescribe a ketogenic diet in addition to medication or as a standalone treatment option. In the most effective cases, a child may experience enough improvement on a ketogenic diet to safely reduce or eliminate medication. At the Pediatric Epilepsy Center, our team of experts closely monitors each child's progress and adjusts the treatment regimen as needed for the best possible results.

Neurologists assess several factors and maintain ongoing discussion with the family in order to determine how long a child remains on a ketogenic diet. The amount of time varies from child to child, based on effectiveness, compliance and tolerance.