As you may know, a ketogenic diet is a diet that is low in carbs and high in fats. Though there is no set standard intake for fat, carbs, and protein, the most common versions of the keto diet use these percentages: 5% carbs, 75% fat, 20% protein. This can vary by five to ten percent, depending on the version of the diet you stumble across.
The reduced intake of carbs makes the body turn to fat for energy. The body turns dietary and stored fat into ketones, which are made in the liver. To an extent, what you’re doing is tricking your body into thinking it’s starving and getting it to burn fat. Fat burns faster than carbs, especially with the aid of a ketogenic diet and the supplements most dieters take; such as MCT oils.
ADHD and Keto
The benefits of the ketogenic diet on people suffering from seizures is well documented, but since seizures and ADHD are both neurological disorders, the question that comes to mind is: can keto also help with ADHD? There is some evidence that the ketogenic diet may have beneficial effects on people suffering from ADHD.
Heidi Pfeifer, a clinical dietitian specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children has witnessed some positive changes in epileptic children who are put on a less strict version of the keto diet, composed of 40 to 60 grams of carbs instead of 20 grams. Pfeiffer has seen improved behaviour and focus, as well as improved symptoms of ADHD.
In 2001, a Johns Hopkins study pointed to the same result. Studying 65 children with epilepsy who were put on a ketogenic diet over one year, researchers saw “significant behavioural improvements in attention and social functioning” in the children, as well as a reduction in epileptic seizures.
There is also anecdotal evidence that many adults suffering from ADHD feel improved attention and focus while on the ketogenic diet as well as reporting better levels of energy and better mood.
That said, there isn’t much solid research to back up the benefits of a ketogenic diet against the symptoms of ADHD. Our understanding of the role of fat in the body has evolved a lot over the past decades. While the ketogenic diet is not new, the understanding of fat as beneficial and healthy is more recent.
There are many health benefits associated with the ketogenic diet, and the potential for improved focus and attention is an enticing reason to do the diet. While adults are welcome to start the full keto diet by following our guides, it may be better to have children try a changed version of the keto diet so that their choices aren’t as limited, and their routine doesn’t change too much. 40 to 60 grams of carbs is two to three times what an adult on the ketogenic diet would eat, and it offers much more choice in the way of food that the child can eat.