Where did the ketogenic diet come from? And is this a passing fad or proven science? Understanding a little about the history of keto can help shed light on its usefulness today.
Keto in Ancient Greece
Many people are surprised to learn that the roots of keto can be traced back to 500 BCE. In ancient Greece, several pioneering physicians argued that epilepsy was not, as commonly believed, a supernatural affliction. Evidence suggested, rather, that epilepsy was a physical condition that could be improved through physical means--including fasting.
Epilepsy Treatments in the 1920s
The modern ketogenic diet emerged in 1920, when pediatricians discovered that the low-carb, high-fat diet was an effective treatment for childhood epilepsy. News of the breakthrough spread like wildfire, and for the next decade, keto was widely used to treat epileptic seizures--with high success.
When anticonvulsant drugs, which prevent rapid neuron firing during seizures, entered the market in the early 1930s, the keto diet became less popular. After all, why follow a holistic diet when a pill was available? However, while anticonvulsants proved very effective, many scientists warned of adverse side effects, such as reduced IQ in children.
A Return to Keto
In the 90s, producer Jim Abrahams brought renewed attention to the keto diet after publicly revealing that his young son, who suffered from epilepsy, was using the ketogenic diet to effectively manage his condition.
Abrahams created the Charlie Foundation to spread awareness of the ketogenic diet and fund research related to keto. The results of the first studies were published in 1996, sparking renewed interest from the scientific community and the general public, especially for individuals who wanted an non-medical approach to managing epilepsy.
Keto in Modern Times
Interest in the ketogenic diet as a sustainable healthy lifestyle, and as an effective treatment for numerous neurological disorders continues to climb, particularly as many people question the ethics of the modern healthcare system and widespread reliance on pharmaceutical drugs.
While childhood epilepsy has been the focus on the majority of studies involving the ketogenic diet, early research indicates that keto can also have a significant, positive impact on a wide array of neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
And while the ketogenic diet was once was once used primarily as a prescribed medical treatment for seizures, the age of the internet has coincided with huge numbers of individuals trying keto on their own to treat conditions like seizures, diabetes, acne, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or for more general health benefits like mental clarity and weight loss.