The Ketogenic Diet is now the #1 searched diet in America.
Suddenly more than Vegan. And at least 5X more than Paleo!
If you’re on keto, you know why. Rapid Weight loss. Higher energy levels. Clearer thinking.
People swear by it. And no diet has the research to support its life-changing benefits.
But have you ever wondered why it took until 2018 to us to get it?
Where was the ketogenic diet when you or a family member need help with weight control? Or with energy levels?
Well today we’ll tell keto’s story through 7 surprising facts.
And pay attention… because keto’s story could have a big impact on you and your family’s health in the future.
1) Ketosis was first used 2,500 years ago in Ancient Greece
To the Greeks, epilepsy was spiritual possession. It was punishment by the moon goddesses Selene and Artemis.
They called it the “Sacred Disease.” A disease so powerful it could not be healed.
Until 100 years later... when Hippocrates – The Father of Medicine – comes along and calls BS:
It is not, in my opinion, any more divine or more sacred than other diseases, but has a natural cause, and its supposed divine origin is due to men's inexperience.”
That mindset change is one of the great breakthroughs in medical history.
And it quickly gave the greeks their epilepsy cure.
Hippocrates tells the story of a man seized by epileptic convulsions in Of the Epidemics.
He prescribed the man complete abstinence from food and drink. And shortly after, he was cured.
What Hippocrates discovered was the power of ketones (which fuel the body when food runs short). And we have our first recorded use of therapeutic ketosis.
2) Jesus used ketosis to heal a young boy
From the Book of Mark (9:14-29, New International Version):
Jesus is walking through town and notices a large crowd arguing. He sees his disciples in the crowd and walks over.
“What are you arguing with them about?” he asks.
A man answers,
“Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
“Bring the boy to me,” says Jesus.
The crowd watches as the boy is thrown into a crippling seizure by a dark spirit.
Jesus turns to the boy and commands:
“Come out of him and never enter him again.”
The spirit shrieks and leaves him. Jesus lifts the boy triumphantly to his feet.
After Jesus goes indoors, his disciples turn and ask, “Jesus, why couldn’t we drive it out?”
Jesus replies, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
And we have another reference of ketogenic fasting in the most unlikely of places... The Bible.
3) The French believed masturbation caused epilepsy... until they discovered ketosis.
Fasting’s power as an epilepsy cure faded over the medieval years (remember those damn Dark Ages?). There it stayed until reviving in France, 1911.
Potassium Bromide was the drug of choice for epilepsy back then. Sounds like nasty stuff. What were doctors doing pumping people full of bromide?
Doctors believed that epilepsy was caused by masturbation (no seriously... they did). Bromide is a powerful sedative and zapped patients of sexual excitement. Voila, epilepsy cured.
The problem was bromide zapped them of… well ... just about everything. It made patients feel sick and lifeless. Doctors realized they needed something better.
And they found it again in fasting. That same year, French Physicians Guelpa and Marie authored the first scientific report on the value of fasting in epileptic treatment.
4) Ketosis comes to America by a man who claimed it can make you live to 120
Keto was made popular in the United States by a curious man named Bernarr Macfadden. People knew him as a fitness guru and “physical cultist.”
And he was known to make outrageous claims.
He told anyone who’d listen that our medical system was an organized fraud.
Follow my rules, he said, and you’ll live to 120. Bernarr was a good looking dude, and people paid attention.
Bernarr became famous, eventually befriending President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He even ran for president (didn’t work out… if it had who knows… maybe we’d all be on Keto??)
Bernarr’s longevity strategy was simple. You fast, and fast often. Anywhere from three days to 3 weeks at a time.
He theorized digesting food took lots of energy. With no food to digest, our energy goes to restoring our health.
He claimed everything from epilepsy to asthma could be cured through fasting. He had no credentials to back those claims – only experience.
Bernarr died a broke man (he only made it to 87…). But his work inspired a new generation of doctors.
5) Doctors first used ketosis in the United States to treat children with epilepsy
Meet Dr. Conklin, one of Bernarr’s former assistants.
Dr. Conklin started a homeopathic practice in the Midwest. He offered epileptic therapy through fasting. No drugs administered.
His results shocked the medical world.
A 90% cure rate!? Physicians couldn’t believe it. But after repeating Dr. Conklin’s results, they too became believers.
The results were great, but there was just one problem. You can only fast for so long… how do you get long-term results?
Enter Rollin Woodyatt. He found out that fasting wasn’t the only way we can produce ketones. You could get there, he said, with a very low-carb, high-fat diet.
But would a nutritionally ketogenic diet deliver the same results fasting had for thousands of years?
The world was about to find out.
Another physician, Dr. Russell Wilder, read Woodyatt’s work and decided to try the diet on three epileptic patients he was treating. Sure enough… dramatic seizure control in all three.
And so the ketogenic diet was coined in 1924.
6) The keto diet almost disappeared from history in the 1930's
As quickly as the ketogenic diet was coined, it went dark. For another 60 years.
This time because of the rise of anti-epileptic drugs (AEPs). Doctor’s focus went from diet to drugs.
Can’t blame them, getting kids to take a pill is a lot easier than telling them to forego pizza for life.
7) Keto's revival has Meryl Streep to thank
The ketogenic diet returned to the mainstream in October 1994 with a premier on NBC’s Dateline show.
The story was on Charlie Abrahams, a two-year old suffering from epilepsy. Charlie’s parents had tried everything. No drug or therapy could control it.
Charlie’s Father Jim then stumbles on an old reference to the ketogenic diet used at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He takes Charlie there to begin therapy.
And… it works! Charlie’s symptoms disappear and he develops normally.
His family was thrilled. But they had an important question...
“Why the hell didn’t anyone tell us about this diet!?”
Fair question. Afterall, Charlie had suffered thousand of seizures. He saw five pediatric neurologists, two homeopathic physicians, and one faith healer.
Until a simple change in diet cured his seizures.
To spread the word, Jim creates a foundation to promote the diet and fund research.
He even makes a movie (he was a Hollywood director), 1997’s First Do No Harm, starring Meryl Streep. It has a familiar plot: a young elliptic boy is cured by the ketogenic diet.
This sets off an explosion of interest in the ketogenic diet that continues to this day.
What's next for keto?
You likely don’t have pediatric epilepsy.
But do you know a family member with Type II diabetes?
How about Alzheimer’s? Parkinson’s? Cancer… surely?
Well here’s some exciting news...
The ketogenic diet has shown promise in treating all these – and many other disorders.
Even the medical crisis of our generation... depression.
You don’t need to be sick to find value either.
Want Increased energy? Better aerobic performance? Maybe a cognitive boost?
These are just a few of the benefits people on the diet (and your’s truly…) swear by.
The ketogenic diet may prove one of the biggest nutrition breakthroughs we find in our lifetimes.
And it only took us 2500 years to see it. But hey, better late than never.
To your health,
Ben & Brandon
Disclaimer: This website provides general information and discussions about health, nutrition and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Ben & Brandon are not doctors, registered dieticians or registered nutritionists.