The ketogenic was designed in 1923 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic for the treatment of epilepsy. Inspired by the effects of fasting on people with epilepsy, Dr. Wilder postulated that restricting carbohydrates and promoting fat might create a similar metabolic state within the body and, thus, reduce seizures at a similar rate to fasting. He was right. The diet worked, reducing seizures by 50% or more in over 50% of people who tried the diet. The diet exploded in popularity until the 1940’s, when pharmaceuticals came onto the market for the treatment of seizures, effectively replacing the diet. Fortunately, the diet was saved from extinction when, in 1993, the Abrahams family brought their son, Charlie, to John Hopkins, the one medical institution in the nation still practicing ketogenic therapies for epilepsy. Charlie’s subsequent and miraculous cure spurred Charlie’s father, Jim, to write a screen play entitled “First Do No Harm”, staring Maryl Streep, which led to a feature of the Abrahams’ story on Dateline NBC in 1997. Since then, the diet has steadily increase in use for epilepsy, and is being researched for application across a variety of illnesses with a metabolic underpinning. 

Friend of the Foundation

I’ve known Charlie since birth. I watched his delightful personality emerge through a normal first year. I witnessed his debilitating battle with seizures and medicines. I rejoiced with his family when the ketogenic diet stopped his epilepsy.

Professor and Researcher, Morsani College of Medicine

No organization has done more to educate the public about the therapeutic potential of the ketogenic diet than the Charlie Foundation. Our laboratory develops and tests metabolic-based therapies, including calorie restricted diets, ketogenic diets, and exogenous ketogenic agents that target specific pathways linked pathophysiologically with seizure disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic dysregulation, cancer, muscle wasting and exercise performance. Our in vitro and in vivo studies continue to validate the efficacy, mechanism of action and safety of these metabolic therapies, and our data has produced remarkable results in animal models for seizures and cancer.  We are also in the initial phases of transitioning our pre-clinicalanimal studies into human clinical trials

Registered Dietitian

The Charlie Foundation teamed up with Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, Beth Zupec-Kania, in 2006 to promote access to ketogenic diets in the medical community. She’s managed ketogenic diets in individuals with epilepsy, autism, multiple sclerosis, mitochondrial and metabolic disorders, migraine headache, multiple sclerosis, various cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and, Angelman’s and Prader Willi syndrome. Beth also designed The Charlie Foundation’s,KetoDietCalculator;  web-based program for calculating diets, used globally by nutritionists and their patients.

Professor and Researcher, Trinity College

Over the last two decades the Charlie Foundation has organized educational conferences, maintained a website, and trained medical teams about the ketogenic diet at 200 hospitals world-wide. Ketogenic diets have been used to treat epilepsy for nearly a century. We are now starting to fully appreciate that in addition to stopping seizures – even in cases when all drugs fail – this metabolic approach may have much broader applications in treating and preventing disease in the brain and beyond. There is accumulating evidence that the ketogenic diet promotes metabolic health and homeostasis – and thus a platform for resilience and recovery. The diet also establishes a low but stable blood glucose level – and recent research has shown that higher glucose levels are associated with brain atrophy, and that on average people with diabetes and prediabetes have worse cognitive function.

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