Statement of the Child Neurology Society Regarding the Ketogenic Diet.

Statement of the Child Neurology Society Regarding the Ketogenic Diet.

On Sunday, February 16, the made-for-television movie, "...first do no harm," starring Meryl Streep, aired on ABC. As a service to parents and other care givers concerned with the well-being of children with epilepsy, Michael Cohen, MD, President of the Child Neurology Society, has asked John Freeman, MD, Director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Clinic at Johns Hopkins University, to comment on the film and provide a brief overview of the ketogenic diet used by the child in the film to control his seizures.

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, very Iow carbohydrate diet used in some children who have epilepsy that is difficult-to-control with conventional drugs. Although the diet was first developed in the 1920's and widely used through the 1940's, it fell into disuse as new medications for epilepsy became available. Recent widespread media attention to this treatment has Increased its use by many centers, and child neurologists are increasingly being asked about the diet.

On February 16, 1997 a made-for-TV film was shown on ABC. This film, starring Meryl Streep, dramatized a true story about a child successfully treated by the diet, and can be expected to generate considerable discussion and many questions. The Child Neurology Society is developing this position statement to assist with responses to this anticipated demand.

The decision about whether the diet is or is not appropriate for an individual child should be the result of discussions between informed parents and their physician. The diet is not a cure-all, nor is it intended for everyone with epilepsy.


John Freeman, M.D.

Director, Pediatric Epilepsy Clinic

Johns Hopkins University


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