The Origin Of The Keto Diet Might Not Be What You Expect

The ketogenic diet, known as keto for short, is one of the latest diets and lifestyle adaptations affecting individuals' approach to food intake and daily meal plans. What makes the keto diet different from other weight loss and diet programs is how keto dieters break down daily macro intake. According to SCL Heath, macros are defined as macronutrients and encompass the three main categories of food we consume and convert into energy. Those categories include carbohydrates, protein, and fats. While some weight loss methods propose a ratio of macros that rely primarily on carbohydrates followed by protein and fat (via Women's Health Magazine), the keto diet gives that approach a complete 180.

In order to follow the keto diet (via Health Magazine), one's daily macros need to lean heavily into fat (roughly 70-75%), followed by protein (15-20%) and carbohydrates (5-10%). Even though keto has picked up extreme popularity within the past five years, the ketogenic diet has been around for about 100 years. And believe it or not, it was not started to help with weight loss.

How the keto diet helps epilepsy

In the 1920s, before the introduction of anti-epileptic drug treatments, epileptic patients were put on the ketogenic diet, according to an article published in Epilepsia. The keto diet started as a method to stop seizures from occurring because of how food converts into energy.

On the ketogenic diet, the body goes through a process called ketosis, where fat is converted into ketones as an energy source. The standard non-keto diet runs off of carbohydrates instead of fat, and the body's energy is derived from glucose made up of starches and sugars. This form of energy plays a part in our brain's operations – which is why the keto diet was recommended for people with epilepsy. The presence of ketones reduces the excitability of the brain (known to cause seizures) by lowering glutamate levels while "enhanc[ing] the synthesis of GABA," according to Brain Facts.

Though the keto diet has gained immense popularity in the last few years – with new products, recipes, and even keto-friendly restaurant options – it is a demanding lifestyle for people to keep up. The challenges of upholding a keto diet combined with the advances in modern pharma have not made the keto diet the primary diet for people with epilepsy. While beneficial to people with epilepsy, the keto diet is now used as a solution for drug-resistant epilepsy, according to the Cleveland Clinic.