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Kids need carbs for motor skills development?

by (9812)
Updated about 22 hours ago
Created February 07, 2011 at 3:43 PM

I was talking with a friend who is a special-ed major; we have a mutual friend with a toddler who may have autism. I mentioned that I had heard/read some good things about the ketogenic diet (I myself would try Paleo before going the ketogenic route so the kid can still have veggies and fruits); my friend told me the ketogenic diet is no good for little kids because they need carbs for their motor development. I'd never heard this before (I don't have kids, but I am always researching nutrition) and when I googled it, all I found was that the brain uses glucose for energy, so carbs are needed for brain development. Can't the liver make glucose? I am of the "kids are just little people" school of thought, but maybe some things are different at that young age?

24fcc21452ebe39c032be6801d6bbadd
9812 · February 23, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Ok folks I get it, kids aren't just little people (again, I don't have any); at some point they do become little people, and I have no idea at what age that occurs. The crux of the question was kids needing glucose for brain development.

6234b07fd779f3e0e37089da91f70041
0 · February 22, 2012 at 11:06 PM

Children are most certainly not just "little people". From a layperson view, they are in a rapid stage of foundational development. From a biochemical view, their hormone levels and other growth factors are very different from an adult. I am not saying that carbohydrate is essential, because I haven't seen any studies to say that it is. However, I would first look at the nutrient profile of human mother's milk (HMM). In regards to carbs, I know it contains oligosaccharides, but to what degree, I don't know. The contents of HMM will partially depend on the mother's diet.

6234b07fd779f3e0e37089da91f70041
0 · February 22, 2012 at 10:54 PM

@ Rae - Please support your statement with research. I am not saying you are wrong, but it will help everyone to see your point if you are able to quote some valid peer reviewed literature.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1
15415 · June 25, 2011 at 2:38 PM

When my kids were about 10-12 months old, one of the first solid foods I gave them was the fat from around a piece of meat. I made sure it was soft and small and that they couldn't choke on it. They loved it, my son would have a plate of small bites of fat for his dinner. Both kids loved this until about age 2.0-2.5 and they lost their taste for it and then wanted leaner meats. The brain is mostly fat and the first two years are crucial for brain development. I think that eating fat during this time is good for brain development.

7c1110b7fad797f38894545d1dbd4a9d
100 · June 21, 2011 at 6:58 AM

Actually carbohydrates are essential, especially while discussing the growth and development needs of children. Without sufficient carbohydrates, children will become malnourished with abnormally enlarged organs, stunted growth, and poor brain development. Breast milk absolutely contains carbohydrates. After weaning from breast milk, children need other healthy carb sources to fuel development and growth.

7c1110b7fad797f38894545d1dbd4a9d
100 · June 21, 2011 at 6:53 AM

As a nurse, I feel compelled to weigh in on this one. Kids absolutely need carbohydrates for brain and organ development and fresh fruit is possibly the best way to fuel their carbohydrate needs and their growing brains and bodies. Cultivate a child's taste for natural sugars. It can be very hard to feed little kids! They can be picky eaters who are more interested in playing than sitting down to consume adequate calories. We need to provide our children with nutrient dense foods that will appeal to them -- and fruit is perfect for this.

4b61b13ed39e5c5d01fe234900cadcf8
1138 · May 18, 2011 at 2:10 AM

http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/334-autism-and-vaccinations good article on how damage from autism, whether genetic or vaccine caused, can be healed and improved with diet. Totally agree than many of today's children are simply starved of fat, and are being labeled as "learning disabled", ADHD, etc. Very sad.

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9812 · April 02, 2011 at 3:36 AM

Thank you so much for all this info! I will definitely pass on to my friend, thanks :)

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20787 · February 08, 2011 at 5:32 AM

Innuit and Masai kids do just fine without carbs. On a ketogenic diet, most cells switch over to fat burning mode. Only a small percentage of the body's cells actually require glucose to survive and the needs of those cells are met by gluconeogenesis. However, on the flip side, I think it's easier for kids to adhere to a less strict diet and I think an average healthy kid would be just as healthy with some healthy carb included. Why make it harder and more restrictive without clear signs of benefit?

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2633 · February 08, 2011 at 4:20 AM

That's good to know and I wish them the best, but one must be careful extrapolating from pathological cases to healthy individuals.

5740abb0fa033403978dd988b0609dfd
2633 · February 08, 2011 at 4:15 AM

Calling fruit a gateway drug is silly hyperbole. A little seasonal fruit, as in a piece or sometimes two a day, in an otherwise healthy kid (or adult) is not going to have any negative consequences. An absolute lack of moderation is ridiculous whether it comes from veg*ns or Paleoites.

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10502 · February 08, 2011 at 2:26 AM

Jules -- kids are most decidedly NOT just little people -- this is a huge fallacy.

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3641 · February 08, 2011 at 1:37 AM

although its a mystery why their list of Omega 3 sources at the end is only vegan options--even after they talk about how our brains grew from eating FISH.

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3
3641 · February 08, 2011 at 1:25 AM

Franklin Instistute has an easy to read report on how fat effects brain development. interesting stuff! http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/fats.html#fatsbuild

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3
3641 · February 07, 2011 at 11:35 PM

anyone interested should go to their local community college and take a class on Human Growth and Development. The baby's brain develops large amounts in the womb--part of the reason why preemies have a higher percent chance of having learning disabilities. i cant imagine what the percentage is for children of low-fat vegans. with

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3
3641 · February 07, 2011 at 11:32 PM

of course don't get me wrong, there are genetic factors too, but the wrong diet and the developing brain--someone should be studying this!

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9812 · February 07, 2011 at 9:14 PM

Yeah it seemed pretty absurd, figured I'd make sure I have my facts straight before debating! I texted a few hours ago asking for her to elaborate, no response yet :/

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9812 · February 07, 2011 at 9:10 PM

Thanks- good to get other educators' perspectives!

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9812 · February 07, 2011 at 9:07 PM

I agree- ketogenic def doesn't seem like something to try on a little one as first resort. My friend with the kids seems really interested in paleo since I've been doing so well on it; hopefully she'll give it a shot!

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2250 · February 07, 2011 at 8:48 PM

I so agree with this. I am a secondary school teacher and I am convinced that most of the issues we see kids with now - Asperger's, ADHD, etc are actually symptoms of fat deficiency on the growing brain. We have so many kids who cannot concentrate and are apathetic and not enthusiastic about anything, totally lacking in energy - even the ones that aren't outright obese.

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18671 · February 07, 2011 at 6:54 PM

That's simply ridiculous.

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22913 · February 07, 2011 at 4:49 PM

dont forget chaperone-mediated autophagy. Good stuff.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · February 07, 2011 at 4:47 PM

I "carb-load" I eat 2-3 potatoes during a feast a full 24-36 hours before to ensure full muscle glycogen, and avoid heavy exercise prior to event, that way I have the juice for the sprint/obstacles. but make no mistake, im running on FAT, not carbs.

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9812 · February 07, 2011 at 4:28 PM

That's what I was thinking- I've recommended to my friend (the mom, not the student) to try Paleo for the whole family because she has Addison's disease; hopefully she'll give it a go. I don't think my student friend is familiar with gluconeogenesis, she was trying to get me to carb-load before we did Warrior Dash last year :/

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898 · February 07, 2011 at 4:22 PM

+1. Bottom line: Kids need glucose, just like real people. Gluconeogenesis is a better option for glucose than just eating carbs. also, from an anthropological POV it really makes no sense at all to say that kids needs carbs.

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9812 · February 07, 2011 at 4:21 PM

Thanks! I hope your friend's little guy continues to do well.

24fcc21452ebe39c032be6801d6bbadd
9812 · February 07, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Thanks! Yeah I was pretty surprised; I would think fat would be needed for brain development, but not carbs.

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10 Answers

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3
15
3641 · February 07, 2011 at 6:21 PM

I am a special ed grad student, I've been super interested in diet since a lot of exceptional kids are put on keto diets--kids with autism and kids with seizure disabilities especially.

One thing our society is screwing up is that the brain needs FAT to develop. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the reasons learning disabilities is on the rise is that nutrition based on carbs has risen so much of late in this country. Even the first lady is trying to get fat out of schools, but fat is needed for young brains to grow.

This post article from last year on the Obama food policy observed the abysmal food being made at a DC school but of course the writer focuses on all the cheese on the baked ziti, not that fact that its just a giant plate of gluten-laden carbs. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/11/AR2010021103894.html

24fcc21452ebe39c032be6801d6bbadd
9812 · February 07, 2011 at 9:10 PM

Thanks- good to get other educators' perspectives!

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3
3641 · February 07, 2011 at 11:35 PM

anyone interested should go to their local community college and take a class on Human Growth and Development. The baby's brain develops large amounts in the womb--part of the reason why preemies have a higher percent chance of having learning disabilities. i cant imagine what the percentage is for children of low-fat vegans. with

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3
3641 · February 08, 2011 at 1:25 AM

Franklin Instistute has an easy to read report on how fat effects brain development. interesting stuff! http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/fats.html#fatsbuild

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3
3641 · February 08, 2011 at 1:37 AM

although its a mystery why their list of Omega 3 sources at the end is only vegan options--even after they talk about how our brains grew from eating FISH.

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1
2250 · February 07, 2011 at 8:48 PM

I so agree with this. I am a secondary school teacher and I am convinced that most of the issues we see kids with now - Asperger's, ADHD, etc are actually symptoms of fat deficiency on the growing brain. We have so many kids who cannot concentrate and are apathetic and not enthusiastic about anything, totally lacking in energy - even the ones that aren't outright obese.

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3
3641 · February 07, 2011 at 11:32 PM

of course don't get me wrong, there are genetic factors too, but the wrong diet and the developing brain--someone should be studying this!

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1
15415 · June 25, 2011 at 2:38 PM

When my kids were about 10-12 months old, one of the first solid foods I gave them was the fat from around a piece of meat. I made sure it was soft and small and that they couldn't choke on it. They loved it, my son would have a plate of small bites of fat for his dinner. Both kids loved this until about age 2.0-2.5 and they lost their taste for it and then wanted leaner meats. The brain is mostly fat and the first two years are crucial for brain development. I think that eating fat during this time is good for brain development.

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7
80 · April 01, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Hi,

I have a son with Autism and over the years have done mountains of research on the brain/gut connection. Lord knows there is enough out there!

Personally, I wouldn't recommend a low-carb diet, but paleo thankfully there are lots of ways to get wonderful carbs: fruit and veggies. My son also has a mild mitochondrial dysfunction, so carbs are extremely important for him. But honestly, I think some of the successes observed using these ketogenic or low carb diets has more to do with the likely connection to the decrease of candida in the intestines as a result of being starved out. If they are facing candida problems, definately, lots of coconut oil (very safe and healthy), oil of oregano (tastes horrible, but rub a drop into the child's sole of their foot and it will be in the blood stream in under a minute), grapeseed extract and of course there is always the option on nystatin (compounded to remove the crap like food colourings and flavours!)

That said, I would recommend that your friends look into either paleo or SCD (very similar - http://www.pecanbread.com/BTVCautismchapter.html). Signs of digestive problems don't need to be overt, although with most of our little guys, it is.

And yes, fats are essential!!! In addition to great things like avocadoes, nuts, coconut oil, we also supplement our son with Nordic Naturals Fish Oils (EPA and DHA) - huge difference. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/19041.php

They may also consider starting a D vit drop now. Again helps with a number of different things, as well as consider supplementing with vitamins. Our little guys don't metabolize quite the same and often aren't able to pull the needed vitamins from the foods.

We also use a B-12 compounded transdermal that we rub on our son's wrists instead of the shots. He'd otherwise be running for the hills. And the changes are incredible!!

Allison

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9812 · April 02, 2011 at 3:36 AM

Thank you so much for all this info! I will definitely pass on to my friend, thanks :)

B1c014be8aefc403677604bb45b0ff1e
5
90 · February 07, 2011 at 4:05 PM

I have a good friend and her son (2 years of age) is on a Ketogenic diet. He has Tuberous Sclerosis. He will have seizures for the rest of his life. On a Ketogenic diet, the seizures are less frequent and not as bad. If you were to tell this mother that she needs carbs in her sons diet, that would be telling her that she needs to let her son have more seizures... honestly, I am not a scientific person with all the stats on carbs, but we do not need them. Kids as well. I am not trying to be dramatic, but this shows that carbs can be horrid to some people, including kids. This little boy is thriving on this diet. And, to note, a Ketogenic diet is way different then a gluten-free diet. They can not go out to eat because if he has any hidden carbs, it can send him into a seizure right then and there.

24fcc21452ebe39c032be6801d6bbadd
9812 · February 07, 2011 at 4:21 PM

Thanks! I hope your friend's little guy continues to do well.

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2633 · February 08, 2011 at 4:20 AM

That's good to know and I wish them the best, but one must be careful extrapolating from pathological cases to healthy individuals.

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4
39841 · February 07, 2011 at 7:09 PM

I have no plans to ever reproduce, but I'd be pretty leery of trying such an experiment with kids in crucial developmental stages. We don't really know what the long-term effects are of prolonged ketosis, and certainly not for a developing brain. I would wager that it's better than the SAD certainly, but it'd be hard to prove that it's optimal. Personally, were I to find myself with a child to care for, I'd feed them exactly what I eat: mostly grass-fed meat, potatoes, spinach and pasture butter. Adding in potatoes "just in case" really doesn't have much of a downside.

Now, I would definitely go fructose-free and never give them the gateway drugs like fruit.

5740abb0fa033403978dd988b0609dfd
2633 · February 08, 2011 at 4:15 AM

Calling fruit a gateway drug is silly hyperbole. A little seasonal fruit, as in a piece or sometimes two a day, in an otherwise healthy kid (or adult) is not going to have any negative consequences. An absolute lack of moderation is ridiculous whether it comes from veg*ns or Paleoites.

24fcc21452ebe39c032be6801d6bbadd
9812 · February 07, 2011 at 9:07 PM

I agree- ketogenic def doesn't seem like something to try on a little one as first resort. My friend with the kids seems really interested in paleo since I've been doing so well on it; hopefully she'll give it a shot!

7c1110b7fad797f38894545d1dbd4a9d
100 · June 21, 2011 at 6:53 AM

As a nurse, I feel compelled to weigh in on this one. Kids absolutely need carbohydrates for brain and organ development and fresh fruit is possibly the best way to fuel their carbohydrate needs and their growing brains and bodies. Cultivate a child's taste for natural sugars. It can be very hard to feed little kids! They can be picky eaters who are more interested in playing than sitting down to consume adequate calories. We need to provide our children with nutrient dense foods that will appeal to them -- and fruit is perfect for this.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
4
22913 · February 07, 2011 at 4:16 PM

even a child is capable of gluconeogenesis from protein for maintaining what the body needs.

Optimal is questionable. Id put that closer to how heavy is their activity level.

If they are as active as a non-neolithic child would have been, tubers are a major GO in my book. If they are sedentary, sitting in school and then sitting in front of video games or TV after they get home... 100g or less is probably where id cap out.

its the same advice for adults tho.

after they're weaned and not living off breast milk, theyre humans... they should eat the same as we do, just maybe a little less.

24fcc21452ebe39c032be6801d6bbadd
9812 · February 07, 2011 at 4:28 PM

That's what I was thinking- I've recommended to my friend (the mom, not the student) to try Paleo for the whole family because she has Addison's disease; hopefully she'll give it a go. I don't think my student friend is familiar with gluconeogenesis, she was trying to get me to carb-load before we did Warrior Dash last year :/

0ee98c251b5eef357445aefec99c5d7b
898 · February 07, 2011 at 4:22 PM

+1. Bottom line: Kids need glucose, just like real people. Gluconeogenesis is a better option for glucose than just eating carbs. also, from an anthropological POV it really makes no sense at all to say that kids needs carbs.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · February 07, 2011 at 4:47 PM

I "carb-load" I eat 2-3 potatoes during a feast a full 24-36 hours before to ensure full muscle glycogen, and avoid heavy exercise prior to event, that way I have the juice for the sprint/obstacles. but make no mistake, im running on FAT, not carbs.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · February 07, 2011 at 4:49 PM

dont forget chaperone-mediated autophagy. Good stuff.

1cbb6b2a813475d6c0b17fd5e898dc50
3
1248 · February 07, 2011 at 4:11 PM

I recall reading that ketogenic diets helps autism (I dont remember where). How can a human child be different than a human adult? If carbs aren't necessary for an adults survival then they aren't necessary for a child. I told a friend of mine who has a child with autism to read the papers I had read but she wouldn't buy it. Found some links. link text link text

24fcc21452ebe39c032be6801d6bbadd
9812 · February 07, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Thanks! Yeah I was pretty surprised; I would think fat would be needed for brain development, but not carbs.

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2
439 · June 25, 2011 at 2:08 PM

You get my Mom Of The Day Award. I have so many friends with kids with autism and they don't even consider removing mac n' cheese or Kool-Aid from the diet. I admire ALL parents with kids with Autism, but the families like yours that are taking the hard (and research based) route deserve so much more credit. Kudos to you!

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2
12369 · February 08, 2011 at 12:27 AM

Children need carbohydrates - the brain uses about 20% of the body's carbohydrate supply. There is a rapid growth in human brain cells from birth to three years old - so it is very important to make sure that the baby/child is getting adequate carbohydrates (but the best carb are the ones that are low GI - fruits and veggies)

I searched for recipes and meal plans for the ketogenic diet (man are they hard to find - i really feel for parents that have been told to put their children on this diet - there really is not all that much out there in terms of support). It seems to me that there are carbs in the diet - it's just low carbs - and the carbs that are included are low GI carbs.

Kids are just 'little people'; however thier needs are a little more important - as they are building their brains and their bodies. As the mom of a little guy - we feed him a mostly paleo diet; but we do add in whole grains in moderation (around 3 servings per week) as well as dairy - But we don't have any special needs to attend to.

Oh and to Travis - good luck on saying no to a toddler when it comes to fruits!

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3
20787 · February 08, 2011 at 5:32 AM

Innuit and Masai kids do just fine without carbs. On a ketogenic diet, most cells switch over to fat burning mode. Only a small percentage of the body's cells actually require glucose to survive and the needs of those cells are met by gluconeogenesis. However, on the flip side, I think it's easier for kids to adhere to a less strict diet and I think an average healthy kid would be just as healthy with some healthy carb included. Why make it harder and more restrictive without clear signs of benefit?

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2099 · February 07, 2011 at 10:46 PM

Its not just fats that they need, but cholesterol, too. And what foods have the highest concentration of fat and cholesterol? Drum roll please...meat and animal fats!...the very foods that the fucked-up, bone-headed "health authorities" have such an animus against. It makes me wonder if autism isn't related to brain inflammation brought on by too much seed oils and carbohydrates and not enough protein and animal fat in the diets of not only the unfortuneate little ones, but their parents as well. Weston Price demonstated that "primitive" people go to great lengths to make sure that prospective parents are well fed before conception and during pregnancy and breast-feeding. I wish our society was that enlightened. But corporate coffers must be fed first...even before pregnant women and growing children.

4b61b13ed39e5c5d01fe234900cadcf8
1138 · May 18, 2011 at 2:10 AM

http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/334-autism-and-vaccinations good article on how damage from autism, whether genetic or vaccine caused, can be healed and improved with diet. Totally agree than many of today's children are simply starved of fat, and are being labeled as "learning disabled", ADHD, etc. Very sad.

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2312 · February 07, 2011 at 6:55 PM

There's no such thing as an essential carbohydrate, is there.

7c1110b7fad797f38894545d1dbd4a9d
100 · June 21, 2011 at 6:58 AM

Actually carbohydrates are essential, especially while discussing the growth and development needs of children. Without sufficient carbohydrates, children will become malnourished with abnormally enlarged organs, stunted growth, and poor brain development. Breast milk absolutely contains carbohydrates. After weaning from breast milk, children need other healthy carb sources to fuel development and growth.

6234b07fd779f3e0e37089da91f70041
0 · February 22, 2012 at 10:54 PM

@ Rae - Please support your statement with research. I am not saying you are wrong, but it will help everyone to see your point if you are able to quote some valid peer reviewed literature.

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