The History of the Ketogenic Diet: From Ancient Times to Modern Day

In the early 1920s, Mayo Clinic physician Russell Wilder, M. D. tried his “ketogenic” diet on people with epilepsy, and since then, it has been an effective treatment for seizures. Fasting and other dietary regimens have been used to treat epilepsy since at least 500 BC.

To mimic the metabolism of fasting, modern physicians introduced the ketogenic diet (KD) as a treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s. For two decades, this therapy was widely used, but with the modern era of treatment with antiepileptic drugs, its use declined dramatically. By the end of the 20th century, this therapy was available only in a small number of children's hospitals. In the past 15 years, there has been an explosion in the use and scientific interest in KD. This review traces the history of one of the most effective treatments for childhood epilepsy. The ketogenic diet was developed in 1924 by Dr.

Russell Wilder at Mayo Clinic as treatment for epilepsy. It was very popular in the 1920s and 1930s until the introduction of anticonvulsant drugs. However, it is still used as a means of therapy for those who have a drug resistance to epilepsy. In my 33 years of working with nutrition therapies, none come close to the remarkable results I have seen with ketogenic diets. I have had the honor of working with hundreds of people who follow the diet, which has taken me around the world, where together with The Charlie Foundation we have trained more than 200 hospitals in ten countries. The 1960s, in general, was a period when ketogenic diets became popular in American society.

In 1962, Robert Cameron began to publicize his own “steak and martini” diet, which has been seen by many as a precursor to the modern ketogenic diet found in the general population. Cameron's highly appetizing approach was followed nine years later by Dr. Robert Atkins, whose 'Atkins Diet' first caught public attention in 1972 (1). These longer-term approaches had a clear impact on the bodybuilding community. One of the most prolific fitness writers of the 1970s, who also acted as a nutritionist for Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Balik, made that clear in his 1979 pamphlet, Total Muscularity. Over the next decade, ketogenic diets were used for a variety of diseases before the development of new drugs slowed diet momentum.

The review also summarizes that diet may be useful from a period of a few weeks (to induce a state of ketosis) to several months, but caution is advised when reintroducing carbohydrates into the subjects' diet. An episode in October 1994 reported on the case of Charlie, a two-year-old boy with severe epilepsy whose seizures were out of control until he started the ketogenic diet. The classic ketogenic diet is not a balanced diet and only contains small portions of fresh fruits and vegetables, fortified cereals, and calcium-rich foods. It's not entirely clear when the ketogenic diet first attracted attention as a weight-loss solution, but the early and late nineties were dominated by the Atkins diet and eating plan with a similar perspective on carbohydrates. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that eating a lot of protein can help with satiety, making the higher protein aspect of the ketogenic diet potentially useful for curbing hunger. The ketogenic diet team at Johns Hopkins Hospital modified the Atkins diet by eliminating the goal of achieving weight loss, extending the induction phase indefinitely, and specifically encouraging fat consumption. There has been an explosion in the low-carb ketogenic diet in recent years, both for personal use and for scientific research.

It is also worth noting that the ketogenic diet was not designed for weight loss, although a study by the World Obesity Review indicates that it is increasingly being used for this purpose. A variant of the classic diet known as the ketogenic diet MCT uses a form of coconut oil, which is rich in MCT, to provide about half of the calories. Sports sciences had begun experimenting with ketogenic diets during the 1980s and 1990s, as evidenced by studies by Dr. Although the ketogenic diet has become popular among weight loss gurus, it is extreme and puts the body in an alternative metabolic state that must be absolutely monitored by a doctor.

Bruce Chen
Bruce Chen

Medical & health reporter. Award-winning internet evangelist. Embraced the low-carb keto diet and lost 9 pounds.