Origin of Ketogenic Diet

Hippocrates father of medicine

Hippocrates 400 BC The father of medicine

The ketogenic diet’s exciting story of how it came to be over the last 2,500 years. The source of the therapeutic use of a ketogenic diet started with Hippocrates, the Greek physician. Then around 400 BC when he discovered the anti-seizure properties of fasting, inducing a state of calm with ketosis. Unfortunately, this treatment did not last long because patients would get hungry and start eating again, and seizures soon returned after the food was reintroduced. ref (1)

In the early part of the 20th-century a Bodybuilder, author and health advocate Bernarr Macfadden, published his health magazine. “Physical Culture” with over 500,000 readers by 1919, it outlined his ideas on fasting as a means of restoring health to treat various ailments including epilepsy. ref (2)
This drew the attention of doctors including endocrinologist Dr Rollin Woodyatt who discovered the 3 ketone bodies: 

  • Acetone.
  • β-hydroxybutyrate. 
  • Acetoacetate. 

The ketone bodies were identified when a normal subject was fasting, or a diet containing a lower proportion of carbohydrate and a high proportion of fat.

The discovery of the Ketogenic Diet 

In 1919 at the Mayo Clinic Dr Wilder discovers the ketogenic diet by modifying the intake of macronutrients:

  • Fat. 
  • Protein. 
  • Carbohydrates.

Based on the work summarised by Woodyatt. Wilder induced ketogenesis administered through diets which were high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates and examined the benefits of fasting. ref (3)

Ketogenic diet balance

Dr Wilder proposed that a ketogenic diet should be more effective than fasting, for people with epilepsy. Also it could be maintained for a more extended period on time, compensating for the disadvantages of a lengthy fast. Peterman at the Mayo Clinic reported the first ketogenic diet results in 1925. ref (4)
In the 1920s and 30s, the popularity of ketogenic diet developed as the go-to therapy for epilepsy. It was designed to provide a longer-term solution to fasting, which had demonstrated success as an epilepsy therapy. The diet was eventually discarded mainly due to the formulation of new anticonvulsant medicines.

Ketosis with MCT Oil

To make the diet more palatable in 1971, Peter Huttenlocher introduced a ketogenic diet where 60% of the calories came from medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) oil. Where more protein and carbohydrates were allowed in the menu, it was more enjoyable for the children who were on this diet. The Mayo Clinic reported successfully, a therapeutically significant’s with the MCT diet. As a result, other centres and hospitals adopted it in place of the classic ketogenic diet as a therapy to childhood epilepsy. ref (5)

The Atkins Diet

In the 1970s a cardiologist, Dr Robert Atkins, developed a modified version of the ketogenic diet that was published in 1972. “Dr Atkins’ Diet Revolution.” It went viral and became a bestseller selling over 15 million copies worldwide according to the New York Times. The Atkins diet is a high-protein, high-fat, very low-carbohydrate regimen. It emphasises meat, cheese, and eggs while discouraging foods such as bread, pasta, fruit, and sugar. It is a form of a modified ketogenic diet. ref (6) 

Ketogenic diets piechart

It is important to note that ketogenic diets were not necessary for losing weight, they were designed as a treatment option for people with epilepsy by inducing a state of ketosis, the ketone bodies reduced the frequency and severity of the seizures in most patients who adhered to the diet. Dr Atkins was the first Doctor to use the diet to promote weight loss. 

Ketogenic diet timeline

My Clinical Application of the Ketogenic Diet  

For a long time, I have used a ketogenic diet in my practice after years of clinical observation. With the help of a colleague expert in the field, and painstaking clinical research along with the hard work of testing and tasting recipes. At times I felt like the pioneer Hippocrates. As a result I see people from all walks of life, like the 70-year old man who came to see me with stomach bloating, reflux, and gastrointestinal discomfort. After a thorough evaluation and some functional tests, along with adequate preparation he embarked on my keto modified diet. Within three days he was in ketosis and felt a lot better, his symptoms started to subside. He put in a solid effort following the program to the letter. His wife’s supported he was on the journey to recovery and he lost over 10 kg in 35 days, improving his health. 

Reliable data shows that a ketogenic diet can be safe for most individuals when monitored closely by a health professional.
I run a weekly weight loss program either online or from my Brisbane clinic / rooms. Ask about my 1st care package or just be in touch I would love to hear from you even if it’s just to help you with what you’re currently doing. 

With love and good health

Phone: 0409 278 320

PS: My aim is not to present a professional researcher or scientific paper, it is my interpretation to give you a conceptual understanding of the history and the concept of the ketogenic diet.

In Part 2, In I will discuss 

Success and Safety Implementing the Ketogenic Diet

In wisdom and good health
Phone: +61 409 278 320

Written by: Brendon Groves Clinical Naturopathic Practitioner and Founder of Groves Naturopathics
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