Cognitive benefits of the ketogenic diet in patients with epilepsy: A systematic overview

Epilepsy Behav. 2018 Oct:87:69-77. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2018.06.004. Epub 2018 Aug 31.


The ketogenic diet (KD) has been found to be effective in reducing seizures in patients with treatment-refractory epilepsy. Less attention has been paid to additional cognitive benefits of KD. The aim of the present paper was to provide a comprehensive overview of the studies reporting effects on cognition after KD treatment in adults and children with epilepsy. To address this aim, the clinical literature on cognitive effects of KD in patients with epilepsy was reviewed using a systematic approach. We conclude that using subjective assessments of the patient's experience, cognitive improvements are frequently reported during KD treatment in the domains of alertness, attention, and global cognition. Studies that used objective neuropsychological tests confirmed benefits on alertness but found no improvement in global cognition. There are indications that these improvements are caused by both seizure reduction and direct effects of KD on cognition. The improvements appear to be unrelated to medication reduction, age when KD is started, type of KD, and sleep improvement. The findings in the present overview contribute to a better understanding of the beneficial effects of KD in patients with epilepsy.

Keywords: Cognition; Epilepsy; Ketogenic diet.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diet therapy*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology
  • Diet, Ketogenic*
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy / complications
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy / diet therapy*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*