I admit, I didn’t know until I read this article by Drs. Morandi, Guido, and Tagliabue from Pavia, Italy! Basically, this is a study of other studies: the authors search the Internet using medical referencing software to look for trends in publishing and research, sometimes over decades. What they found in this bibliometric study of the ketogenic diet was fascinating.
A review of the ketogenic diet
They reviewed 661 articles since the 1930s, with the vast majority since the 1990s (likely as a result of the Charlie Foundation). In fact, half the articles EVER published were in the 2000s and 24% in the past 3 years alone! We are certainly living in a hot time for research on diets! Most were in the journal Epilepsia, with Epilepsy Research and Journal of Child Neurology topping out the top 3. The vast majority (87%) were in English.
In terms of the papers themselves, several key articles were highly referenced, including the randomized controlled trial by Neal in 2009, the 1998 studies from our center (Johns Hopkins), and my study of the modified Atkins diet from 2006. Trends noted a high citation rate for papers on the modified Atkins diet and low glycemic index treatment, along with basic science articles (which, although relatively few in comparison to clinical papers on children, are often highly cited by other authors).
What can we learn from this “bibliometric study” on the diet?
For one, the diet is growing in popularity from a research perspective, with articles published at a pace never seen before. This is obviously great for the field. Second, there is a clustering of articles a) in English, b) in a few specific journals (especially Epilepsia), and c) mostly focusing on clinical science (e.g., humans). Although this is not necessarily a problem, I think it signifies we need more basic science articles published in different journals to help get the ketogenic diet to new audiences. Finally, more recent studies focusing on “alternative” diets are being referenced widely; for neurologists and dietitians entering the ketogenic community and looking for high-yield research, these alternative diets may be worth investigating.
Morandi G, Guido D, Tagliabue A. A bibliometric study of scientific literature on the dietary therapies for epilepsy in Scopus. Nutritional Neurosciences. 2014 Mar 17. [Epub ahead of print]