Due in part to the appetite-suppressing effect of ketosis, fewer calories are consumed—resulting in weight and adipose tissue loss along with lowered blood glucose, triglycerides, and saturated fatty acids.
People inquiring about ketogenic therapy for brain cancer have become the second-largest group (next to epilepsy sufferers and their families) requesting information from both organizations. These individuals often experience seizures; therefore, the role that the ketogenic diet offers as an antiseizure, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor therapy offers multifaceted benefits (Seyfried and Mukherjee, 2005; Veech, 2004). The ketogenic diet has also been shown to enhance the activity of a variety of anti-cancer therapies, reduce side effects, improve the anti-tumor immune response and reduce the formation of therapy resistance (Scheck and Syed, 2022). Several studies are currently in progress through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) investigating ketogenic diet effects on cancer. Recently, Matthews Friends has partnered with the Astro Brain Tumour Fund to help adults and children with brain cancer.
Additional applications of ketogenic diet therapies for other conditions have grown exponentially in recent years. Benefits have been reported in a multitude of neurological disorders and animal models of disorders including autism spectrum disorder, certain mitochondrial diseases, diabetes, migraine, Prader-Willi syndrome, neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, stroke and mental illness. New research may expand the mission of the Charlie Foundation and Matthew’s Friends—or may bring new partners supporting metabolic therapies for diverse applications.
In response to the increasing demands for adult resources, the Charlie Foundation produced a guide in 2014 titled “Modified Ketogenic Therapy for Neurologic and Other Conditions.” Intended for use under medical supervision, it describes portion sizes for protein, fat, and carbohydrate and advice for optimal nutrition. The Charlie Foundation has shared resources with oncology medical professionals and expanded its website information to include this new population of users. A new link on the charliefoundation.org landing page has been added to ketogenic diet studies conducted through the NIH for cancer, epilepsy, and other disorders.
Medical supervision for ketogenic therapies and choosing the appropriate diet therapy for each patient is an evolving focus. The spectrum of therapies enables selection of the optimum diet for individuals, accounting for their overall health, diagnosis, age, and ability to comply. Matthew’s Friends developed a support system to help families prior to and during the diet to enhance the likelihood of success. Adjusting the therapy during treatment to optimize effectiveness is often necessary. Discontinuing the diet is usually the goal in childhood epilepsy: two to three years is the typical course of treatment. However, in some cases of epilepsy and other neurological disorders, it may be necessary to continue with a modified version of the diet indefinitely. These discussions are frequently addressed at the Charlie Foundation and have become the topics of collaborative journal articles and professional guidelines spearheaded by nutritionists.
News of ketogenic diet therapies has spread quickly through social media and the popular press. Thousands of copies of the Charlie Foundation’s Parent’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet have been distributed in English and Spanish. Consultant chef Dawn Martenz and nutritionist Beth Zupec-Kania have collaborated on a new cookbook, Keto Cookbook II (Demos Publications). Cooking videos of the most popular keto recipes have been added to the charliefoundation.org website, and posts of creative snacks and meals are added to the Facebook page regularly. In addition, an App is under development for the modified ketogenic diet. Similarly, Matthew’s Friends (www.matthewsfriends.org/) is dedicated to developing and publishing delicious keto-friendly meals, and has produced a wealth of information for both parents and professionals by way of printed booklets, information films and national and international conferences
Both the Charlie Foundation and Matthew’s Friends have been continuously supportive of research and have partnered in funding global symposia on ketogenic diets. They stay abreast of new research related to ketogenic diet therapies. A recent study in the journal Obesity (2015) showed dramatic improvements in the health of obese children in just 10 days after eliminating sugar in their diets (Lustig et al., 2016). The metabolic impact of a sugar-free diet is one element of ketogenic diets that can be undertaken by anyone without the need for medical supervision. Eliminating sugar can be a difficult task for most people and requires strong motivation. A 2007 study published in Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews showed that rats that were fed sugar intermittently had behavior and neurochemical changes that resemble the effects of substance abuse (Avena et al., 2008). Eliminating refined (processed) foods is a second step that can be taken to improve one’s diet.
The Charlie Foundation has translated these and other similar research findings into pragmatic guidelines. A new publication, “Does What I Eat Affect My Epilepsy?”, outlines steps that can be taken to eliminate sugar and refined foods and to consume a mostly whole foods diet. This has been distributed widely (in English and Spanish) for all people with epilepsy regardless of their interest in ketogenic diet therapy.
For conditions that may benefit from ketogenic therapies, the Charlie Foundation designed a “Pre-Ketogenic Diet”. This document is distributed (free) to health professionals to provide to their patients or clients who are potential candidates for ketogenic diet therapy. It recommends the elimination of gluten and sugar, in keeping with the classic ketogenic diet; however, it is not intended to induce ketosis. Instead, it can be described as a whole foods, Mediterranean-style diet that prepares the user for the transition to ketogenic therapy and also helps determine which diet in the spectrum is best suited for their needs and preferences. In addition, healthcare professionals can use the “Pre-Ketogenic Diet” as a screening tool to identify which individuals are able to adhere to the lifestyle changes required for ketogenic diets.