The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. It is designed to push the body into a state of ketosis, where it burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. The origins of the ketogenic diet can be traced back centuries, but it was not formalized as a medical treatment until the 20th century.
- Ancient civilizations: The concept of fasting, which shares similarities with the ketogenic diet, has been practiced for thousands of years by various ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans. These early societies recognized the health and spiritual benefits of fasting and dietary modifications.
- 1920s – Introduction for epilepsy: The modern version of the ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920s by Dr. Russell Morse Wilder at the Mayo Clinic as a treatment for epilepsy. Dr. Wilder discovered that fasting led to a decrease in seizure frequency and that the benefits could be maintained by adopting a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. This diet successfully mimicked the effects of fasting and induced ketosis in the body, leading to fewer seizures in epileptic patients.
- 1960s-1970s – Diet for weight loss: The ketogenic diet gained attention as a weight loss strategy in the 1960s and 1970s. Dr. Robert Atkins popularized the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss through his book, “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution,” published in 1972. Although the Atkins diet is not identical to the ketogenic diet, both share similar principles and sparked interest in the low-carbohydrate approach to weight loss.
- 1990s – Renewed interest for epilepsy: In the 1990s, interest in the ketogenic diet for epilepsy was renewed when it was highlighted in a TV movie, “First Do No Harm,” starring Meryl Streep. The film depicted the true story of a young boy with epilepsy who saw significant improvements in his seizures after adopting the ketogenic diet. This led to a surge of interest in the diet, with researchers and clinicians exploring its potential benefits for epilepsy and other neurological disorders.
- 2000s – Present – Mainstream popularity and research expansion: Over the past two decades, the ketogenic diet has become increasingly popular as a weight loss and lifestyle diet. This popularity has been fueled in part by celebrities, athletes, and social media influencers endorsing the diet. The growing interest in the ketogenic diet has also led to an expansion of research into its potential benefits and applications beyond epilepsy, such as in the management of diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurological disorders.
While the ketogenic diet has a long and varied history, its recent rise in popularity has led to a wealth of research and applications. As more studies are conducted, our understanding of the potential benefits and risks of the ketogenic diet will continue to evolve.