The neuropharmacology of the ketogenic diet

Pediatr Neurol. 2007 May;36(5):281-92. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2007.02.008.


The ketogenic diet is a valuable therapeutic approach for epilepsy, one in which most clinical experience has been with children. Although the mechanism by which the diet protects against seizures is unknown, there is evidence that it causes effects on intermediary metabolism that influence the dynamics of the major inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitter systems in brain. The pattern of protection of the ketogenic diet in animal models of seizures is distinct from that of other anticonvulsants, suggesting that it has a unique mechanism of action. During consumption of the ketogenic diet, marked alterations in brain energy metabolism occur, with ketone bodies partly replacing glucose as fuel. Whether these metabolic changes contribute to acute seizure protection is unclear; however, the ketone body acetone has anticonvulsant activity and could play a role in the seizure protection afforded by the diet. In addition to acute seizure protection, the ketogenic diet provides protection against the development of spontaneous recurrent seizures in models of chronic epilepsy, and it has neuroprotective properties in diverse models of neurodegenerative disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Child
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted / methods*
  • Epilepsy / diet therapy*
  • Epilepsy / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ketone Bodies / pharmacology*


  • Ketone Bodies