This November, we had the pleasure of having a personal visit by a ketogenic diet "alumni" of the Johns Hopkins ketogenic diet program, Chester "Chet" White, Jr. Chet had emailed me after seeing an article about the ketogenic diet and then came to visit us on November 18th. We spent about an hour hearing about his time on the diet in the mid 1940s…over 60 years ago!
Chet was started on the ketogenic diet at age 4 for absence epilepsy, in 1945. His neurologist was Dr. Samuel Livingston, who started the Johns Hopkins Ketogenic Diet program. There are no medical records available for us to find from that time, so we had to go by his memory of the diet. He remembered fasting for about a week, then after he began to make urine ketones (measured by having him urinate in a test tube as there weren’t any Ketostix™ available at that time….), he was given liver and spinach for his first meal. Chet recalls his father being upset at the hospital giving him those foods due to his never liking any of them before! One meal he did enjoy was a hot dog on a string in a Thermos bottle of tomato soup, which his mother prepared for his school lunch. He did very well, his phenobarbital was discontinued, after a couple of years the diet was stopped, and he never has had a seizure since.
Now 60 years later, he describes himself as a "carbohydrate junkie". He graduated from the U S Naval Academy and had a 20 year career as a Naval Officer, followed by several years as a Realtor. He is now retired and splits his time between houses in San Diego and a condo in the Baltimore area. He is an avid attendee of Navy home football games.
We asked him about some of the possible long-term side effects of the ketogenic diet (occasionally seen with continuous long-term use). He denied growth problems (currently 5 foot 7 inches and 230 pounds), bone fractures (only a small fracture years ago of his fifth toe), or high cholesterol (currently 146 mg/dL in February). He has had recent problems with kidney stones, with his first one at age 60 years. Fortunately Chet has never had a heart attack, stroke, or signs of atherosclerosis.
We thank Chet for visiting and wish him continued good health and a life seizure-free!