Neurobiochemical Mechanisms of a Ketogenic Diet in Refractory Epilepsy

Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2014 Dec;69(10):699-705. doi: 10.6061/clinics/2014(10)09.


A ketogenic diet is an important therapy used in the control of drug-refractory seizures. Many studies have shown that children and adolescents following ketogenic diets exhibit an over 50% reduction in seizure frequency, which is considered to be clinically relevant. These benefits are based on a diet containing high fat (approximately 90% fat) for 24 months. This dietary model was proposed in the 1920s and has produced variable clinical responses. Previous studies have shown that the mechanisms underlying seizure control involve ketone bodies, which are produced by fatty acid oxidation. Although the pathways involved in the ketogenic diet are not entirely clear, the main effects of the production of ketone bodies appear to be neurotransmitter modulation and antioxidant effects on the brain. This review highlights the impacts of the ketogenic diet on the modulation of neurotransmitters, levels of biogenic monoamines and protective antioxidant mechanisms of neurons. In addition, future perspectives are proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biogenic Monoamines / metabolism
  • Child
  • Diet, Ketogenic / methods*
  • Epilepsy / diet therapy*
  • Epilepsy / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ketone Bodies / metabolism
  • Medical Illustration
  • Neuroprotective Agents / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism


  • Biogenic Monoamines
  • Ketone Bodies
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Neurotransmitter Agents