The Ketogenic Diet for Children with Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological disease that mainly affects children. Today, we'll talk about the ketogenic diet for children with epilepsy.
The Ketogenic Diet for Children with Epilepsy

Last update: 19 March, 2021

Epilepsy is a nervous system disorder that causes recurrent seizures. It usually results in a loss of consciousness, tremors and changes in behavior. The main treatment is taking specific drugs, which can also be combined with a specific diet. There is a great deal of evidence that shows the benefits of the ketogenic diet for children with epilepsy. We’ll tell you about it in this article.

It’s important to note that epilepsy can affect anyone at any age. However, 75% of the time, it affects children. Worldwide, epilepsy affects 50 million people.

Causes of epilepsy

Although we aren’t always sure what causes this condition, there are numerous factors that can play a role, such as:

  • Genetics. The likelihood of suffering from this condition increases when another family member has it. Genes that are related to sensitivity to the environment have also been identified as a trigger for seizures.
  • Head injuries that were the result of an accident or a blow. 
  • Brain tumor or condition.
Vitamin A in children
  • An infection such as meningitis or encephalitis.
  • Brain damage from injuries at birth. These injuries could be related to a lack of oxygen or to an infection the mother has.
  • A congenital defect.

Ketogenic diet for children with epilepsy

First, you should know that people first started using the ketogenic diet in 1921. However, the results of this diet weren’t published until the 70s. Although we don’t know specifically how this diet works, we know that it results in changes in energy metabolism and in neurotransmitter production.

In addition, doctors recommend trying this diet out if at least two anticonvulsant drugs haven’t worked for you. Also, you have to ensure there aren’t any side effects caused by metabolic conditions related to fats, or because of a lack of carnitine. We also recommend getting checked for liver disease, congenital hypercholesterolemia, acidosis, or cardiomyopathy.

What does the diet consist of?

This diet is based around increasing fat consumption and reducing carbohydrates. Generally, the ratio of fats and carbohydrates/ proteins is 4:1, but there are also variations like 3:1. This will depend on the person’s tolerance and their adaptability. Also, you can even use medium triglycerides.

According to this diet, you should eat a lot of oil, avocado, blue fish, nuts, butter and seeds, while reducing your consumption of rice, pasta, bread, some fruits and vegetables, as well as sweets and pastries. The goal is to get energy through fat oxidation, which will lead to the production of ketone bodies.

Once a professional tells you this diet is safe for your child, they will calculate their caloric intake. To do this, they need to take into account their age, nutritional status, sex, and physical activity levels. This will help ensure proper growth.

To start the diet, you can choose to fast for 24 to 72 hours under hospital supervision, or modify your current diet. The second option produces fewer side effects.

However, in both cases, it’s necessary to monitor the presence of ketone bodies in urine. During the first week, you should do this every 8 hours. Then, after that time, you can do it once a day before dinner.

A variety of ketogenic foods.

Also, since this is a restrictive diet, we recommend taking a multivitamin supplement with B vitamins, vitamin D and calcium. In addition, you should get medium triglycerides through coconut oil in order to improve your body’s response to the dietary treatment. 

A professional will monitor the efficacy of this diet for three months. However, they will stop it immediately or progressively if it increases your child’s epileptic seizures. Doctors don’t recommend using it for more than 2 years, but you can maintain it for 6 years if the family or child wishes. 

Benefits of the ketogenic diet for children with epilepsy

The ketogenic diet for children with epilepsy reduces the frequency of seizures and increases your child’s attention span, memory and learning. In addition, when it comes to their behavior, it reduces anxiety and improves productivity. Also, it has been shown to improve children’s moods. 

Side effects

At first, it’s normal to experience a rise in blood cholesterol, secondary drowsiness and vomiting. To treat these conditions, make sure to stay hydrated and to reduce the fat/HC + protein ratio. However, if your child is experiencing growth stagnation, you should increase their protein intake, their caloric intake and their hypoglycemia.

In conclusion, combing medications with the ketogenic diet can yield great results. However, you need to ensure you’re monitoring your child and that you’re both adhering to the diet.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sociedad Española de Neurología. (2012) Guía oficial de práctica clínica en epilepsia.
  • Escott-Stump, S. Nutrición, diagnóstico y tratamiento. Wolter Kluwer. España: 2016
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  • van der Louw E, van den Hurk D, Neal E, Leiendecker B, Fitzsimmon G, Dority L et al. (2016) Ketogenic diet guidelines for infants with refractory epilepsy. Eur J Paediatr Neurol, 20(6): 798-809.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.