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Autism

Ketogenic Diet

04/15/2005

Question:

As a school nurse, I am wondering if there are any concerns or warning signs that an autistic child who is on a ketogenic diet might display while at school?

Answer:

As a school nurse, you probably know that the ketogenic diet is very high in fat, low in protein, and low in carbohydrates.  It is also caloric restrictive.  When children are placed on the ketogenic diet, it usually requires a week of hospitalization for the child in order to be properly managed by the physician and dietitian.  It also gives the family a chance to adequately learn about the diet and dedication that is required to strictly adhere to the diet.

  There are side effects which can occur with some children.  These may include:  dehydration, constipation, vomiting, and behavioral changes.

  As a school nurse, you would obviously report any of these symptoms to a parent.  Because children with autism oftentimes may have other health issues, it is hard to differentiate whether or not it is related to the ketogenic diet. If the child with autism on a ketogenic diet has any of the above symptoms, they should be seen by their physician.

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Response by:

Susan Thompson, MSN, CPNP
Research Nurse Practitioner
OSU Nisonger Center
The Ohio State University

Michael G Aman, PhD Michael G Aman, PhD
Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University