People have used dietary interventions to treat diseases for many years but, as one might expect, this approach is rarely attempted when more conventional medical interventions are already available. Bluntly stated, dietary interventions are almost always tried for disorders that are, at the time, incurable. When no pharmaceutical or surgical treatments are available, diets may be tried out of desperation, from the perspective that “We might as well give this a shot.” And while not all dietary interventions have been successful, many have produced significant improvement for specific symptoms.
The ketogenic diet is a good example of a diet used to treat a medical problem that seems to bear no relations to food or nutrition. Doctors and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, began using an extremely high-fat, low-protein carbohydrate diet to manage seizure disorders 70 years ago. The ketogenic diet lost popularity many years ago but resurfaced in the 1990’s when Dr. John Freeman and nutritionist Millicent Kelly (1996) wrote a book on the use and management of the diet. It is again being used at medical centers around the country to control intractable epileptic seizures in patients who do not respond to conventional drug therapy and are not good candidates for surgery.