The Origins of the Ketogenic Diet: From Navy Seals to Epileptic Sufferers


The ketogenic diet, often referred to as “keto,” has garnered widespread attention in recent years for its potential health benefits, particularly in weight loss and managing various health conditions. However, the roots of this low-carb, high-fat diet stretch back decades and have surprising origins that span from military research to neurological treatment. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history of the ketogenic diet and its evolution from a nutritional tool used by Navy SEALs to a life-changing treatment for epileptic sufferers.

The Ketogenic Diet’s Early Beginnings

The ketogenic diet didn’t start as a weight loss or wellness trend but as a means to address a different challenge altogether. In the 1920s, researchers and medical professionals began exploring dietary interventions for the treatment of epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by seizures. At that time, the available treatments were limited, and many sufferers experienced little relief.

The Introduction of Fasting

The ketogenic diet drew inspiration from an age-old practice: fasting. Fasting had been observed to reduce the frequency and intensity of epileptic seizures, and this observation piqued the interest of physicians and researchers. Fasting, however, was not a sustainable long-term solution for patients, so they began searching for ways to mimic its effects through diet.

The Role of Military Research

The next significant development in the ketogenic diet’s history came during World War II. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, led by Dr. Russel Wilder, started experimenting with a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet as a way to imitate the effects of fasting. The goal was to find a solution that could help soldiers and Navy SEALs during missions where access to food was limited. This diet was dubbed the “ketogenic diet” due to the ketones produced during its consumption.

The Ketogenic Diet as a Treatment for Epilepsy

In the 1920s, Dr. Hugh Conklin, a pediatric neurologist at the Mayo Clinic, began implementing this diet to treat epilepsy patients. The results were remarkable: many patients experienced a significant reduction in seizures, and the ketogenic diet soon became a recognized treatment for epilepsy, particularly in children whose seizures didn’t respond well to other therapies.

Understanding the Science

The ketogenic diet operates on the principle of inducing a state of ketosis. When carbohydrate intake is severely restricted, the body switches from using glucose as its primary energy source to burning fat, which produces ketones. These ketones can have a stabilizing effect on the brain and are believed to be the reason for the diet’s success in reducing epileptic seizures.

Contemporary Uses and Ongoing Research

Today, the ketogenic diet has evolved beyond its military and epilepsy origins. It is a popular approach for weight management, metabolic health, and even as an adjunct therapy for various medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. The diet continues to be a subject of extensive research, uncovering its potential benefits and applications.


The ketogenic diet’s history is a testament to the power of innovation and scientific exploration. What began as a dietary solution for Navy SEALs’ missions without access to food has blossomed into a multifaceted dietary approach that has helped countless individuals manage epilepsy and improve their overall health. As research into the ketogenic diet continues, we can expect to uncover even more ways in which this unique nutritional strategy can positively impact our lives.

YouTube Video Logan’s Story – The Ketogenic Diet for Epilepsy
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