As parents, we are often advised to give our children a diet rich in carbohydrates and sugars. The theory is that children require energy and are too young to worry about insulin resistance. New data published by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, however, has indicated that obesity affects every sixth child and adolescent in the USA alone. Many children with insulin resistance are being diagnosed as Type-2 diabetic, which is alarming. Carbs coming from processed foods and packaged foods are unhealthy and do not contain sufficient micro-nutrients. This has made many parents wonder if the keto diet or ketogenic diet is advisable from a young age itself. Opposing schools of thought have cropped up regarding this idea and we attempt to understand if the keto diet is a good idea for children.
What Is a Ketogenic Diet?
Is Keto Diet Safe for Children?
The ketogenic diet was originally developed for children who had specific illnesses, and is currently used in hospitals as a complementary treatment for children who suffer from epileptic seizures. Notwithstanding this, a diet that has insufficient carbohydrates and fibre can be unhealthy for a child. Nutritional deficiencies caused by the removal of whole food groups can cause a child to become irritable, sluggish, and unfocused. There may also be side-effects such as constipation, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea. Research also indicates that it could elevate triglyceride levels, cause kidney stones, and weaken bones in children. A low-carb diet should only be implemented after a discussion with a paediatric nutritionist.
How Is Low Carb Keto Diet Beneficial for Kids?
The ketogenic diet does have its benefits in children who require it. Healthy and well-chosen ketogenic foods are:
- High in vitamins of good quality, and have important amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
- They are very low on added refined sugars.
- They have minimal or no food additives and refined ingredients.
- They are supposed to have a positive social and behavioural impact.
When Is Keto Diet Recommended to Kids?
The keto diet is ideally suggested for children who have epilepsy as an alternative treatment for curbing seizures. Ketosis has also been recommended as a treatment for children with inefficient glucose utilisation in their body as in the case of:
- Dravet Syndrome which is a myoclonic epilepsy that occurs in infants. It is recurrent as fever-related seizures or febrile seizures can cause neurological development to slow down, which is accompanied by poor coordination, hyperactivity, or poor language skills. Most cases are caused by the genetic mutation of certain genes. This syndrome is generally known as GLUT1-deficiency syndrome. It could lead to developmental delays, a very small head circumference, involuntary eye movements, and frequently reoccurring seizures.
- Glucose transporter type-1 deficiency where the protein required to transport glucose through the body is insufficient.
- Pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency is a metabolic disorder where the body is unable to break down nutrients in the food properly. Symptoms include extreme lethargy and fatigue, poor feeding, or breathing rapidly. The cause for this illness is usually a genetic mutation of the PDHA 1 gene in the human body.
- Lennox Gastaut Syndrome is a form of severe childhood epilepsy characterised by intellectual disability. It is a condition that can be brought on by lack of oxygen (perinatal asphyxia), central nervous system (CNS) infection, or severe head injuries.
These are the conditions under which the ketogenic diet is given to children. If your child does not have any of the above-mentioned conditions, there is no need to put them on this diet as it can prove to be very harmful. Just maintain a healthy intake of all food groups, and try to reduce the child’s intake of refined sugars and refined grains.