The Ketogenic Diet

Speaking of evidence snobs, this is from the TV movie … First Do No Harm (1997) about a family’s discovery of the ketogenic diet (a high-fat low-carb diet) for their severely-epileptic son:

DOCTOR The diet is not an approved treatment.

MOTHER But there have been a lot of studies.

DOCTOR Those studies are anecdotal, not the kind of studies we base sound medical judgment on. Not double-blind studies.


DOCTOR I assume you know all the evidence in favor of the ketogenic diet is anecdotal. There’s absolutely no scientific evidence this diet works.

The doctor prefers brain surgery. When the diet is tried, it works beautifully (as it often does in real life). “What could have gone so horribly wrong with this whole medical system?” the mother writes the father.

4 Replies to “The Ketogenic Diet”

  1. But…but…there is tons of evidence for the ketogenic diet, including plenty of controlled studies. It’s hard to blind the diet, but it’s not like this hasn’t been studied.

    When I started eating low-carb 6 or 7 years ago, and I looked into research on the safety of being in ketosis, most of what I found was studies of ketogenic diets to reduce epilepsy in children. So I’d say the problem here is that this doctor is ignorant, not that the whole system is wrong.

  2. Patri, thanks for your comment. I don’t think the film was saying that the doctor was ignorant. The doctor knew about the studies, she just didn’t like them. She didn’t find them convincing. In the film, the doctor showed the mother a comprehensive book about the treatment of epilepsy, the “bible”, and told her that the ketogenic diet wasn’t in the book or according to the book wasn’t an approved treatment. It wasn’t just one doctor who thought the diet was not worth trying. It was also the authors of that book. If the film didn’t present an accurate picture of how the ketogenic diet was viewed by the vast majority of doctors, please let me know.

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