Kids need carbs for motor skills development?

by 9796 · June 25, 2011 at 02:08 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?

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10 Replies

3591 · February 07, 2011 at 06:21 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

80 · April 01, 2011 at 06:26 PM


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!!


90 · February 07, 2011 at 04:05 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.

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39204 · February 07, 2011 at 07:09 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.

22684 · February 07, 2011 at 04:16 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.

1248 · February 07, 2011 at 04:11 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

451 · June 25, 2011 at 02:08 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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12362 · 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!

1979 · 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.

2280 · February 07, 2011 at 06:55 PM

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

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