Is the Antiepileptic Effect of the Ketogenic Diet Due to Ketones?

Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(3):536-9. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2007.05.054. Epub 2007 Aug 21.


For many years, the ketogenic diet, including recent variants such the medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) diet, has been used with good clinical results in the management of refractory epilepsies, particularly in children. The antiepileptic effects of the diet, like the antiepileptic effects of starvation, have been attributed to accumulation of ketones, and there are experimental data in animal models to support this hypothesis. Recently, new data about the neuroendocrine response to the acute phase reaction (stress) have emerged, indicating involvement of various neuropeptides, including neuropeptide Y (NPY), which is considered as an endogenous anticonvulsant. The release of NPY is also stimulated by nutrients in the gut, particularly fats. Long-chain and, to a greater extent, medium-chain triglycerides, which are components of the ketogenic diet, stimulate NPY secretion. This effect may explain the improvement in seizure control after starvation, use of the classical ketogenic diet, and use of the MCT diet.

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Diet*
  • Humans
  • Ketone Bodies / therapeutic use*
  • Neuropeptide Y / physiology
  • Neuropeptide Y / therapeutic use*
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Seizures / drug therapy
  • Seizures / prevention & control


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Ketone Bodies
  • Neuropeptide Y