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Generation Rescue Asks: Is Ketogenic the New Autism Diet?

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We’re always trying to stay on top of the latest trends in functional medicine. We’ve heard a lot about the ketogenic diet and were curious about the benefits (if any) for individuals with autism. We asked functional medicine doctor Will Cole, D.C. to give us all the details.

In conversation with Dr. Will Cole

GR: What is ketosis and what does it mean to follow a ketogenic diet?

WC: A ketogenic diet is one made up of high-fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates. The whole goal behind a ketogenic diet is to reach a state of ketosis, where your primary energy source is fat in the form of ketones, instead of glucose.

The standard belief is that we absolutely need glucose for energy when that is simply not the case. As babies we relied on fat in the form of breast milk for optimal development. And with our brains made up of 60% fat with 25% of our bodies entire cholesterol found in the brain, it makes sense to feed our body exactly what it is made of instead of depriving it.

GR: What foods should be eliminated and why? What potential reactions could we be having as a result of eating these foods? 

WC: You should avoid all grains, most fruit, sugar and legumes. Not only can all of these be inflammatory they can interfere with your body reaching ketosis by raising your blood sugar. In addition, fruits should be eaten in moderation because of the high fructose levels. The best fruits are lemons, limes, and berries since they are low-fructose.

GR: What foods are allowed?

Read more here.



I think it's a great idea to continue exploring lifestyle changes, including dietary habits, that can mitigate chronic diseases that otherwise continue to compound the profits of pharmaceutical companies, including autism. Like this - eating the right foods and taking vitamins supports the immune system vs taking vaccines (which profits pay lobbyists, medical personnel, and the media to take away your personal rights). Eating the right foods helps the body fight autism vs being 100% dependent on psych drugs and anti-epileptics (which profits pay lobbyists, medical personnel, and the media to take away your personal rights).

Here are more bits of info to mull over when deciding if a ketogenic diet is worth considering.
a. could reduce exposure to glyphosate, which we all know has been discussed as being capable of opening the gut barrier and blood brain barrier and thereby allowing unprocessed molecules into the body that normally shouldn't be there, which can contribute to inflammation anywhere in the body.

b. does keto diet reduce the use and demand for glyphosate and thereby improve the health of the environment, including the water we drink. Is any municipality testing drinking water for glyphosate residue, or are we all gonna stop at the leadinthewater issue?

c. Could a ketogenic diet increase the levels of bioavailable methionine and choline, deficiencies of which could include "Over two weeks, the MD (methionine deficient) diet reproduced many of the deleterious effects of the MCD (methionine & choline deficient) diet including weight loss, hepatocellular injury, decreased mitochondrial SAM and glutathione, inflammation and fibrosis, whereas choline deficiency caused only steatosis."

d. one questionnaire study re: epilepsy (definately a comorbid health issue in the autism world) showed that even 6 years after having discontinued a ketogenic intervention, patients who benefited from their ketogenic diet were still experiencing seizure free and reduced seizure benefits. 6 years! So the potential for healing the brain has been shown, as well as the possibility that it may not need to be done on a continual basis in order to contribute to good health.

e. ketogenic diets have been shown " specific to BTBR (a mouse model that is a behavioural phenotype of ASD) animals, the KD counteracted the common ASD phenotype of a low Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio in both sample types; and (4) the KD reversed elevated Akkermansia muciniphila content in the cecal and fecal matter of BTBR animals."

f. "Recent research suggests that the SCFAs butyrate and propionate actively communicate with the brain [24]. Our data shows a relative two- to threefold increase in the known SCFA generating C. coccoides and C. leptum populations, respectively, when cecal and fecal samples of BTBR-ketogenic animals are compared to all other groups (Table 2)"

g. In another study, "Collectively, our data suggest that a KD may exert neuroprotective effects by diminishing ROS production through activation of mitochondrial UCPs."

h. does going on a ketogenic diet reduce our society's dependence on "copywrite" foods? Seriously - do we need food that supports the patent and copywrite industries? Not unless we don't mind the pharmaceutical companies eventually controlling our food supply, on top of everything else.

And last but not least, this recent discovery alludes to the idea that the type of bacteria present in certain situation may be responsible for contractions / peristalsis in the bowels. Holy toilet trainers, Batman! What if shifting the microbiome by going ketogenic could assist parents whose autistic children are still in diapers? Would that make it worth trying?
And equally interesting - the 5 main bacteria families had to be added together, not one at a time, to get the benefits. And even more interesting "an extract produced from the colonising bacteria had a similarly positive influence." i.e. can the beneficial bacteria produce positive chemicals outside the body which you can then take to achieve the same results as reintroducing the bacteria themselves.

Also, this is not a high protein diet, so not sure why Dude is complaining about a $10 pound of good beef. That would feed 4 people, at $2.50 each, plus a buck more for some healthy oil or butter on top of some non-starchy vegetables. A person spends more money than that on a nutrient deplete fast food meal, or a Men's Health Magazine. Get real, "Dude" - its the priority and personal effort vs convenience factor that's the big challenge. That plus some people can't stand up to the deliberate peer pressure-like tactics that the big grains and sugar industries use.


And I forgot to mention. Most of the organic veggies you get nowadays are either blasted with Fukushima radiation because they are grown in California, or are grown in hydroponics green houses on soybean oil that comes from China and is likely either conventional or GMO and is almost certainly full of heavy metals from pollution.


I have never understood how people afford this diet. It basically reduces you to nuts, meat, dairy and eggs. I cannot even get legitimate organic eggs in my area. Nuts are VERY expensive. So is organic meat, last I saw it was $10 per pound. So yeah. I can't even afford a doctor that knows how to do heavy metal detox. These sort of articles need to consider that most of us are poor.

Jenny Allan

@Linda 1 ""The standard belief is that we absolutely need glucose for energy when that is simply not the case."

I think Linda means we do not need to ingest glucose for energy requirements. Human metabolic processes convert glucose to energy. Ingested sugars of all kinds and carbs are converted to glucose. The process starts with enzymes in the saliva and continues throughout the digestive tract.


Dr. Thomas,
I hope you will share the diabetes study when it comes out.


"The standard belief is that we absolutely need glucose for energy when that is simply not the case. As babies we relied on fat in the form of breast milk for optimal development."

Human milk contains more carbohydrate than fat. Lactose that provides energy and is important for the developing human brain:
"Mature human milk contains 3%--5% fat, 0.8%--0.9% protein, 6.9%--7.2% carbohydrate calculated as lactose, and 0.2% mineral constituents expressed as ash." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/392766



I have seen them both.
Mostly on the over weight side, especially belly fat kind.

Once upon a time I read an article about the cats' hypothalamus the size of a pea.
If it is damaged on one side; the cat won't eat and waste away till it dies. If a cat's hypothalamus is damaged on the opposite side then it will eats and eat and eat until it become huge, obese; as a side show at the vet's office.

I am not so sure that cushings diseases of some sort is involved, that the adrenals are involved, endocrine system. I think for those that are on the fat side, perhaps the ketonic diet works the best for healing?

I wonder if there has been any studies with epilepsy to see if it matters on the body weight?

Jenny Allan

An interesting thread. More about my grandson, who is an adult now and can eat whatever he likes. His body tells him what he should or should not eat. If he makes a mistake he suffers. He avoids animal fats as much as possible, but seems to tolerate vegetable oils better. (NOT trans fats)

My grandson was investigated and treated at the Royal Free Hospital, London, 1998-2002, by the same clinical team as named on the Wakefield Lancet paper, and was one of around 50 children diagnosed with the same syndrome as the Lancet 12. He was eventually prescribed the CF/GF diet. At the time it made such a difference to his behaviour and concentration. I would say the elimination of dairy was the most beneficial. I must emphasise the GF/CF diet does NOT deprive a child of essential minerals and vitamins. There's plenty of calcium in meat, fish, eggs and vegetables. Growing kids do need carbs for instant energy. Fruit sugars, rice, potatoes and certain types of wheat provide this gluten free.

Fat is a high calorie food but it takes a lot of energy to process, hence such slimming diets as 'Atkins'.
Like Susan Welch's grandsons, my grandson is very underweight. Lisa -keep us informed about your progress please.

susan welch

Willie. That's a bit of a stretch! Both my vaccine injured grandsons with autism are extremely slim.

Maureen McDonnell,RN

Since the brain is 70% Fat - children in general - but specifically children with autism need healthy fats. However, I’m not certain one needs to go so far as to produce a state of ketosis in a child with autism unless of course you’re trying to control seizures or the child is obese

I’ve watched the autism-diet pendulum swing over the past 35 years - so I am a little hesitant to name this version as the universal solution. But certainly eliminating sugar, most grains, including plenty of veggies, some low glycemic fruits, healthy protein sources, addressing food sensitivities & adding healthy fats like coconut oil, organic olive oil, avocados, nuts & seeds etc will maximize the health, behavior & development of kids on the spectrum


Why not just have persons with severe with autism take medium chain fatty acids like coconut oil and loose alot of weight both are easier and cheaper than a ketogenic diet. People need to admit most with autism are obese. Obesity is tied to an increase in seizures and that weight makes the person harder to control during a meltdown.

Tim Lundeen

I've learned that epilepsy is due to alkaline stress in the brain, so eating more acidifying foods and supplements is helpful.

Ketogenic diets are highly acidifying (from the high fat and meat), but usually lower thyroid, which makes it very hard to be healthy, and your gut/immune system needs carbs to work optimally. So, my preference is to use a normal-or-high carb diet, but with coconut oil as tolerated and with a high level of acidifying foods.

For epilepsy, magnesium and calcium are acidifying in the blood, and taking magnesium one-to-one with calcium is very helpful. (For magnesium, ReMag is the best we've found, can't say enough good things about it.)


I'm experimenting with this diet myself right now. Hoping it not only help me with my fatigue issues (I have Hashimoto's) but also hoping to be able to eventually recommend it for my schizophrenic brother. The research is looking promising there as well

Started it about three weeks ago. I was a sugar addict -- craved sugar constantly. I was surprised that after only about one week on the diet, I stopped craving sugar! Now, just three weeks later, I have no interest in sugar. However, I will say that I have not felt well. I've been achy, my stomach has been upset, I've had mild headaches, and I've even felt nauseous at times. But I'm hoping that this is due to yeast die-off. In which case, another week or so and it should be behind me. Fingers crossed.

keto clan

It depends on the child. This was long recommended for some children with severe seizure disorders. We do a modified version of it for our recovering kids and they're doing really well on it. I also went on a modified version of the diet for some autoimmune issues that followed getting a flu shot in 2005. It's been really helpful and eventually my husband adopted it after Tom Brady and the world's 100 mile running champion publicly proclaimed the diet helpful for injury recovery and athletic performance. We eat all organic which gets expensive but so is cancer so we budget.

The "no sugar" part of it isn't as hard as most think since the craving for sugar and carbs are actually built into the foods themselves. Once you stop eating them, you stop wanting them. And you notice that if you eat carbs or sugar again even once, you wake up the next day starving. It takes about a day or so to reset the metabolism after a slip.

Nice bonus to it too-- I'm 5'9" and a size 0 without effort and the rest of the family are thin. That's not why we started doing it but it's definitely a perk.

Paul Thomas

Several presentation were made at the IFM Thought Leaders Symposium recently. One study (soon to be published they said) presented data that included insulin dependent diabetics starting to pruduce their own insulin after monthly 5 day ketogenic "fasts" (they were eating medically prescribed meals during those 5 days). The theory it seems is that this ketogenic process stimulates the release of stem cells which can then go anywhere in the body and repair damage or become needed tissue (my words on the theory - so dont quote me, as I haven't seen the raw data).

Jenny Allan

Please don't implement this diet for a child without a doctor's approval. My 'Wakefield Babe' autistic grandson can only tolerate a minimal amount of fat and almost no dairy.

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