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UCLA Pediatric Neurology


Ketogenic Diet Program


For people with epilepsy whose seizures do not respond to traditional seizure medications, the high fat, low carbohydrate ketogenic diet provides an additional method to improve seizure control.  These diets are designed to switch the body over to burning fats as an energy source rather than sugar and starch. The main types of diet therapy are the ketogenic diet and modified Atkins diet. Low Glycemic Index Therapy (LGIT) is an alternative dietary treatment which is less commonly used.  Of these, the ketogenic diet is considered to be the strongest and most potent therapy, but is also the strictest.  For those who desire greater freedom in food choice or quantity, particularly adolescents and adults with epilepsy, the modified Atkins is often a more attractive option. 

Specific epilepsy syndromes that often respond well to ketogenic diet therapy include glucose transporter (GLUT-1) deficiency, pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency, myoclonic-astatic epilepsy (also known as Doose syndrome), and Dravet syndrome. However, diet therapy can be considered a broad spectrum treatment, potentially improving almost any type of medication resistant epilepsy.  Although in many cases complete seizure freedom may not be achieved, there can be significant improvement which can allow the dose of some seizure medications to be decreased.

Prior to starting diet therapy, blood and urine laboratory tests must be performed to screen for a few genetic conditions and nutritional deficiencies that may be worsened by a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. The ketogenic diet forces a significant change in the body's metabolism, and therefore should be performed under the supervision of experienced medical professionals. Potential side effects include low blood sugar, excessive blood acidity, nausea, constipation, kidney stones, and nutritional deficiencies.

At the UCLA Ketogenic Diet Therapy program, each patient is closely monitored by a nurse practitioner and ketogenic dietitian to ensure that side effects are minimized, and food intake is appropriate to maintain growth and weight. 

Because children's bodies are more easily able to convert to fat metabolism, the ketogenic diet is mainly considered to be a treatment for pediatric epilepsy.  However, the UCLA Ketogenic Diet Therapy Program also offers modified Atkins diet therapy for adults with medically refractory epilepsy, and is exploring the use of diet therapy for other neurologic and medical conditions. 


The Ketogenic Diet Program Team:


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  • Appointments & Referrals - Phone: (310) 825-0867

  • Administrative Office & Program Information - Phone: (310) 825-6196

  • Administrative Office - Fax: (310) 825-5834


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