Review ARTICLE

Front. Pharmacol., 09 April 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2012.00059

The ketogenic diet as a treatment paradigm for diverse neurological disorders

  • 1 Department of Neurology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA
  • 2 Department of Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA
  • 3 Department of Pediatrics, University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, Calgary, AB, Canada
  • 4 Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, Calgary, AB, Canada

Dietary and metabolic therapies have been attempted in a wide variety of neurological diseases, including epilepsy, headache, neurotrauma, Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, sleep disorders, brain cancer, autism, pain, and multiple sclerosis. The impetus for using various diets to treat – or at least ameliorate symptoms of – these disorders stems from both a lack of effectiveness of pharmacological therapies, and also the intrinsic appeal of implementing a more “natural” treatment. The enormous spectrum of pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the aforementioned diseases would suggest a degree of complexity that cannot be impacted universally by any single dietary treatment. Yet, it is conceivable that alterations in certain dietary constituents could affect the course and impact the outcome of these brain disorders. Further, it is possible that a final common neurometabolic pathway might be influenced by a variety of dietary interventions. The most notable example of a dietary treatment with proven efficacy against a neurological condition is the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (KD) used in patients with medically intractable epilepsy. While the mechanisms through which the KD works remain unclear, there is now compelling evidence that its efficacy is likely related to the normalization of aberrant energy metabolism. The concept that many neurological conditions are linked pathophysiologically to energy dysregulation could well provide a common research and experimental therapeutics platform, from which the course of several neurological diseases could be favorably influenced by dietary means. Here we provide an overview of studies using the KD in a wide panoply of neurologic disorders in which neuroprotection is an essential component.

Keywords: ketogenic diet, neuroplasticity, epilepsy, neurological disorders

Citation: Stafstrom CE and Rho JM (2012) The ketogenic diet as a treatment paradigm for diverse neurological disorders. Front. Pharmacol. 3:59. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2012.00059

Received: 17 January 2012; Paper pending published: 25 January 2012;
Accepted: 21 March 2012; Published online: 09 April 2012.

Edited by:

Yuri Zilberter, INSERM U751, Faculté de Médecine Timone, France

Reviewed by:

Yuri Zilberter, INSERM U751, Faculté de Médecine Timone, France
Marta Balietti, Istituto Nazionale di Ricovero e Cura per Anziani, Italy

Copyright: © 2012 Stafstrom and Rho. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Jong M. Rho, Alberta Children’s Hospital, University of Calgary, 2888 Shaganappi Trail Northwest, Calgary, AB, Canada T3B 6A8. e-mail: jmrho@ucalgary.ca