The ketogenic diet is an effective treatment for medically intractable epilepsy and may have antiepileptogenic, neuroprotective, and antitumor properties. While on a ketogenic diet, the body obtains most of its calories from fat rather than carbohydrates. This dramatic change in caloric composition results in a unique metabolic state. In turn, these changes in caloric composition and metabolism alter some of the neurohormones that participate in the complex neuronal network regulating energy homeostasis. Two observed changes are an increase in serum leptin and a decrease in serum insulin. These opposing changes in leptin and insulin are unique compared to other metabolic stimuli and may modify the activity of several cell signaling cascades including phosphoinositidyl-3 kinase (PI3K), adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase (AMPK), and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). These cell signaling pathways may mediate the anticonvulsant and other beneficial effects of the diet, though the neurohormonal changes induced by the ketogenic diet and the physiological consequences of these changes remain poorly characterized.
- Ketogenic diet