During the 1920s and 1930s, when the only anticonvulsant drugs were the sedative bromides (discovered 1857) and phenobarbital (1912), the ketogenic diet was widely used and studied. This changed in 1938 when H. Houston Merritt, Jr. and Tracy Putnam discovered phenytoin (Dilantin), and the focus of research shifted to discovering new drugs. With the introduction of sodium valproate in the 1970s, drugs were available to neurologists that were effective across a broad range of epileptic syndromes and seizure types. The use of the ketogenic diet, by this time restricted to difficult cases such as Lennox–Gastaut syndrome, declined further.[10]
A systematic review in 2018 looked at 16 studies on the ketogenic diet in adults. It concluded that the treatment was becoming more popular for that group of patients, that the efficacy in adults was similar to children, the side effects relatively mild. However, many patients gave up with the diet, for various reasons, and the quality of evidence was inferior to studies on children. Health issues include high levels of low-density lipoprotein, high total cholesterol, and weight loss.[24]

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The ketogenic diet has recently become very popular, and many food companies want to cash in by putting a “ketogenic” or “low carb” label on a new product. Be very cautious of special “keto” or “low-carb” products, such as pastas, chocolate bars, energy bars, protein powders, snack foods, cakes, cookies and other “low carb” or “ketogenic” treats. Read all labels carefully for natural low carb ingredients. The fewer ingredients the better.
Implementing the diet can present difficulties for caregivers and the patient due to the time commitment involved in measuring and planning meals. Since any unplanned eating can potentially break the nutritional balance required, some people find the discipline needed to maintain the diet challenging and unpleasant. Some people terminate the diet or switch to a less demanding diet, like the modified Atkins diet or the low-glycaemic index treatment diet, because they find the difficulties too great.[42]

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It usually takes three to four days for your body to go into ketosis because you have to use up your body's stores of glucose, i.e., sugar first, Keatley says. Any major diet change can give you some, uh, issues, and Keatley says he often sees patients who complain of IBS-like symptoms and feeling wiped out at the beginning of the diet. (The tiredness happens because you have less access to carbs, which give you quick energy, he explains.)

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”According to the insulin-carbohydrate model, we should have seen an acceleration in the rate of body fat loss when insulin secretion was cut by 50 percent,” Hall told me when the study came out. But the researchers didn’t, which Hall thinks suggests that the regulation of fat tissue storage in the body has to do with more than just insulin levels and their relationship with the carbs we eat.

Keto breath, on the other hand, is less of a side-effect and more of a harmless inconvenience (your breath literally smells like nail polish remover). Basically, when your body breaks down all that extra fat on the keto diet, it produces ketones—one of which is the chemical acetone, Keatley previously told WomensHealthMag.com. (Yes, the same stuff that's in nail polish remover.)


The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fueling brain function. However, if little carbohydrate remains in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures.[1] Around half of children and young people with epilepsy who have tried some form of this diet saw the number of seizures drop by at least half, and the effect persists even after discontinuing the diet.[2] Some evidence indicates that adults with epilepsy may benefit from the diet, and that a less strict regimen, such as a modified Atkins diet, is similarly effective.[1] Potential side effects may include constipation, high cholesterol, growth slowing, acidosis, and kidney stones.[3]

Achieving ketosis is a pretty straightforward, but it can seem complicated and confusing with all of the information out there.4If you want to learn more about ketosis and the scientific process around it, you can visit a very in-depth discussion about on Dr. Peter Attia’s website. Here’s the bottom line on what you need to do, ordered in levels of importance:
A computer program such as KetoCalculator may be used to help generate recipes.[47] The meals often have four components: heavy whipping cream, a protein-rich food (typically meat), a fruit or vegetable and a fat such as butter, vegetable oil, or mayonnaise. Only low-carbohydrate fruits and vegetables are allowed, which excludes bananas, potatoes, peas, and corn. Suitable fruits are divided into two groups based on the amount of carbohydrate they contain, and vegetables are similarly divided into two groups. Foods within each of these four groups may be freely substituted to allow for variation without needing to recalculate portion sizes. For example, cooked broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and green beans are all equivalent. Fresh, canned, or frozen foods are equivalent, but raw and cooked vegetables differ, and processed foods are an additional complication. Parents are required to be precise when measuring food quantities on an electronic scale accurate to 1 g. The child must eat the whole meal and cannot have extra portions; any snacks must be incorporated into the meal plan. A small amount of MCT oil may be used to help with constipation or to increase ketosis.[37]

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When you eat foods high in carbohydrates and fat, your body naturally produces glucose. Carbohydrates are the easiest thing for the body to process, and therefore it will use them first – resulting in the excess fats to be stored immediately. In turn, this causes weight gain and health problems that are associated with high fat, high carbohydrate diets (NOT keto).

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In practice, that means subsisting mainly on meats, eggs, cheese, fish, nuts, butter, oils, and vegetables — and carefully avoiding sugar, bread and other grains, beans, and even fruit. Again, if this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s not that different from the Atkins diet, among the most famous very low-carb diets that promise to get your body burning fat. (Atkins, who reportedly said ketosis is “as delightful as sunshine and sex,” promised to help people “stay thin forever,” the same way the now popular Keto Reset Diet book promises to “burn fat forever.”)
I have been with the Keto diet for about 3 weeks. It is a learning curve. I am learning new stuff every day. Your website is the best for me. I love your recipes and free information. I feel like I need to start counting my Macros. I use your recipes but I like to change things up a bit to suit my taste, like adding more veggies, switching out the almond milk for cream. How can I get counts for the recipes when I do substitutions?
Normal dietary fat contains mostly long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are more ketogenic than LCTs because they generate more ketones per unit of energy when metabolised. Their use allows for a diet with a lower proportion of fat and a greater proportion of protein and carbohydrate,[18] leading to more food choices and larger portion sizes.[4] The original MCT diet developed by Peter Huttenlocher in the 1970s derived 60% of its calories from MCT oil.[15] Consuming that quantity of MCT oil caused abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting in some children. A figure of 45% is regarded as a balance between achieving good ketosis and minimising gastrointestinal complaints. The classical and modified MCT ketogenic diets are equally effective and differences in tolerability are not statistically significant.[9] The MCT diet is less popular in the United States; MCT oil is more expensive than other dietary fats and is not covered by insurance companies.[18]
Long-term use of the ketogenic diet in children increases the risk of slowed or stunted growth, bone fractures, and kidney stones.[18] The diet reduces levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, which is important for childhood growth. Like many anticonvulsant drugs, the ketogenic diet has an adverse effect on bone health. Many factors may be involved such as acidosis and suppressed growth hormone.[38] About one in 20 children on the ketogenic diet develop kidney stones (compared with one in several thousand for the general population). A class of anticonvulsants known as carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (topiramate, zonisamide) are known to increase the risk of kidney stones, but the combination of these anticonvulsants and the ketogenic diet does not appear to elevate the risk above that of the diet alone.[39] The stones are treatable and do not justify discontinuation of the diet.[39] Johns Hopkins Hospital now gives oral potassium citrate supplements to all ketogenic diet patients, resulting in one-seventh of the incidence of kidney stones.[40] However, this empiric usage has not been tested in a prospective controlled trial.[9] Kidney stone formation (nephrolithiasis) is associated with the diet for four reasons:[39]

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In the 1960s, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) were found to produce more ketone bodies per unit of energy than normal dietary fats (which are mostly long-chain triglycerides).[15] MCTs are more efficiently absorbed and are rapidly transported to the liver via the hepatic portal system rather than the lymphatic system.[16] The severe carbohydrate restrictions of the classic ketogenic diet made it difficult for parents to produce palatable meals that their children would tolerate. In 1971, Peter Huttenlocher devised a ketogenic diet where about 60% of the calories came from the MCT oil, and this allowed more protein and up to three times as much carbohydrate as the classic ketogenic diet. The oil was mixed with at least twice its volume of skimmed milk, chilled, and sipped during the meal or incorporated into food. He tested it on 12 children and adolescents with intractable seizures. Most children improved in both seizure control and alertness, results that were similar to the classic ketogenic diet. Gastrointestinal upset was a problem, which led one patient to abandon the diet, but meals were easier to prepare and better accepted by the children.[15] The MCT diet replaced the classic ketogenic diet in many hospitals, though some devised diets that were a combination of the two.[10]

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My husband and I started keto Jan 1st 2019. By mid Feb. He lost 11 lbs and I lost 8 lbs. Even though we were faithfully not eating many carbs I got out of ketosis and could not seem to lose another pound. Then we got sick with bad cold and stomach issues. We went off on the 14th of February. And I’ve already gained about 6 lbs. My husband gained about 4 lbs. Plus we got sick of eating the same thing over and over. He is a diabetic and while on it his numbers were so much better. HELP WHAT DID WE DO WRONG?
Hi Sandy, I’m not a doctor so cannot give medical advice, but do have years of research and experience in this lifestyle. Kidney failure can happen due to excessive protein intake, which was more prevalent on older versions of the Atkins diet. This is a common misconception with low carb and keto diets – that they have to mean high protein – and they shouldn’t be. If you keep your protein in check, it shouldn’t be an issue. But, I would definitely consult with your doctor since you have had issues with this.

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In many developing countries, the ketogenic diet is expensive because dairy fats and meat are more expensive than grain, fruit and vegetables. The modified Atkins diet has been proposed as a lower-cost alternative for those countries; the slightly more expensive food bill can be offset by a reduction in pharmaceutical costs if the diet is successful. The modified Atkins diet is less complex to explain and prepare and requires less support from a dietitian.[55]
Adequate protein intake and developing ketosis are both critical for maximising fat loss and sparing muscle mass during the ketogenic diet. However, it will take up to 3 weeks before your body gets keto-adapted (in some cases even more). During the initial phase of the ketogenic diet, nitrogen losses may occur if your daily net carbs intake is very low. When your carbohydrate intake goes down, your body converts body protein into glucose. Since about 16% of protein is nitrogen, you may lose muscle mass which will cause a decrease in your metabolic rate. This could have a negative impact on fat loss. For example, if your carbs intake is close to zero, you you may have to eat more protein (aka protein sparing modified fast). Keep in mind this applies to zero carbohydrate intake which means it does not affect most people following the ketogenic diet. 

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Adequate protein intake and developing ketosis are both critical for maximising fat loss and sparing muscle mass during the ketogenic diet. However, it will take up to 3 weeks before your body gets keto-adapted (in some cases even more). During the initial phase of the ketogenic diet, nitrogen losses may occur if your daily net carbs intake is very low. When your carbohydrate intake goes down, your body converts body protein into glucose. Since about 16% of protein is nitrogen, you may lose muscle mass which will cause a decrease in your metabolic rate. This could have a negative impact on fat loss. For example, if your carbs intake is close to zero, you you may have to eat more protein (aka protein sparing modified fast). Keep in mind this applies to zero carbohydrate intake which means it does not affect most people following the ketogenic diet.
While the evidence behind ketogenic diets for diabetes is still preliminary and the evidence for weight loss isn’t all that convincing (more on that next), the evidence of using the diet to treat epilepsy is extremely robust. The idea for treating people with epilepsy with the keto diet came about in the 1920s, when researchers observed that people who fasted experienced fewer seizures. (Researchers still aren’t sure why the diet can work for epilepsy, but a few mechanisms have been proposed, including making neurons more resilient during seizures.)

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Hi Michelle, You don’t necessarily have to “hit” macros to get into ketosis. Ketosis is achieved by restricting carbohydrates, that’s it. Fat is needed for satiety and protein is needed to prevent muscle loss. So make protein a goal and carbs a limit, then eat enough fat to stay satisfied and don’t go over your macros. You can get more individual help in our support group.

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Basically, in the context of dieting, dieters can either jack up dietary protein to cover the increased carbohydrate requirements of dieting or simply eat slightly more carbohydrates to provide them directly. Both have the same end-result. 15-50 grams per day limits the body’s need to break down protein and will allow protein requirements to be set lower than a diet providing essentially zero carbohydrates per day.

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When in the hospital, glucose levels are checked several times daily and the patient is monitored for signs of symptomatic ketosis (which can be treated with a small quantity of orange juice). Lack of energy and lethargy are common, but disappear within two weeks.[17] The parents attend classes over the first three full days, which cover nutrition, managing the diet, preparing meals, avoiding sugar, and handling illness.[19] The level of parental education and commitment required is higher than with medication.[44]

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