Complications of the ketogenic diet

Karen Ballaban-Gil, C. Callahan, C. O'Dell, M. Pappo, S. Moshé, S. Shinnar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


Purpose: The ketogenic diet has been successfully used in treatment of pediatric epilepsy for >70 years. Few serious complications caused by the diet have been reported. We report complications that have been experienced by children receiving the ketogenic diet. Methods: In a 22-month period, we treated 52 children with the classic ketogenic diet and monitored them in a prospective manner. Results: Five children (10%) experienced serious adverse events (AE) after initiation of the diet. Four patients (80%) were treated with valproate (VPA) in addition to the diet, as compared with 25 (53%) of the other 47 children. Two patients developed severe hypoproteinemia within 4 weeks of initiation of the diet, and I of them also developed lipemia and hemolytic anemia. A third child developed Fanconi's renal tubular acidosis within 1 month of diet initiation. Two other children manifested marked increases in liver function tests, 1 during the initiation phase and the other 13 months later. Conclusions: Clinicians who wish to use the ketogenic diet must be aware of the potential of serious AE and possible interactions of the diet with VPA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)744-748
Number of pages5
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 1998


  • Complications
  • Epilepsy
  • Ketogenic diet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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