Beth Chatfield has been working at Connecticut Children’s and its forebearer institutions for 36 years. She is an expert on ketogenic diets, which, it turns out, are remarkably effective in treating seizures from conditions like epilepsy. The diet focuses on foods that help the body use fats to generate energy—butter, oils, meat—as opposed to a more conventional diet of foods that provide glucose, like pasta, cereals, fruits and vegetables. Adopting this sort of diet forces the body to shift its method of operating, entering a state called ketosis. From a biochemical point of view, this is a form of fasting, even though there is plenty of food being consumed. And the body reacts by producing a combination of substances that short-circuit seizures. Researchers are now trying to understand what those substances are and how they work.
It appears the connection between ketosis and seizure relief was known even in ancient times, but it’s only recently that it’s been thoroughly studied and adopted by the medical community. Beth describes one young man who was having 200 seizures a day before starting the diet and having that number reduced to zero by this change.
“This is the best thing I’ve done in my career,” Beth says.
The ketogenic diet has to be designed for each child, and it requires careful monitoring and adjustment, but it can, in many cases, work miracles. It even appears to be effective with some kinds of cancer, including glioblastoma. “It’s incredibly satisfying work to do,” Beth says. That’s a sentiment you will hear from everyone in Clinical Nutrition and Food Services, even as they gear up to do it all again tomorrow.