Interview with a Top Keto Diet Expert

There are so many misconceptions about the Keto Diet, that’s why I’ve interviewed a worldwide top Keto Diet expert. Some folks think this is a high protein diet, others believe it’s a sugar-free diet. Still others believe it’s about eating protein and vegetables, which is partly true, but it’s so much more than that.

Beth Zupec-Kania & the Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies

I’ve interviewed top Keto Diet expert Beth Zupec-Kania, RDN to clear up many misconceptions about this diet and provide accurate information. After working with hundreds of children on ketogenic therapy, Zupec-Kania joined the Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies to help get the word out about this amazing therapy. She’s also been instrumental in the creation of keto diet guidelines for when and how to prescribe the diet. Below is my interview with Zupec-Kania.

What is the Keto Diet?

There are three major nutrients (called macronutrients) used to define ketogenic diets; fat, protein and carbohydrate. Ketogenic diets are highest in fat, moderate in protein and lowest in carbohydrate. There isn’t just one ketogenic diet; there are several variations ranging from the strict “Classic” ketogenic which requires weighing food on a scale and strict meal plans to a flexible ketogenic diet that allows you to track macronutrients throughout your day. These different diets allow people to choose which therapy they can most easily manage. Some people like to start out with a flexible diet then after they see some benefit, they become stricter. Others start out strict then become more flexible.

Where is Sugar Hidden?

There are many forms of sugar that are added to food as sweeteners. White sugar is the most common, but corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and maltodextrin are others. In my personal ketogenic diet, the only source of added sugar that I have on occasion is in a piece of a 90% chocolate bar which has less than 3gm of sugar in a serving. This is something that I budget for in my goal of 30gm of carbohydrate daily.

When was the Keto Diet Created?

Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic published an article on the Classic Ketogenic Diet in 1921 for treating epilepsy during a time when there were only a few medications available. The diet was broadly used for both children and adults over the next few decades. After the discovery of new medications for epilepsy, the diet fell to disuse.

When Did You Join the Charlie Foundation?

After working with several hundred children on ketogenic therapy, I joined the Charlie Foundation as a consultant in 2006 to help get the word out about this amazing therapy.

Can the Keto Diet Cure Epilepsy?

Over 50% of the children with seizure disorders (epilepsy) that I worked with achieved significant seizure control, and, most were able to reduce or eliminate their medication(s). Together with the Charlie Foundation we educate the public and health professionals and dispel myths about the diet.

How Have You Lead the Keto Diet Revolution?

We commissioned a group of doctors and nutritionists to collaborate on guidelines for prescribing ketogenic diets. I’ve trained in person over 270 medical centers globally and written guides for both professionals and users of the diet.

Can Keto Diet Help with Diabetes, Autism and Migraines?

People who have epilepsy can have other conditions such as autism, diabetes, obesity, migraine headaches and cancer. The symptoms of these disorders generally improve on ketogenic diets in addition to improving their epilepsy. These improvements have prompted scientists to look at the diet for many neurological disorders, endocrine disorders, certain cancers and autoimmune conditions.

What is the Charlie Foundation?

In 1993, Jim and Nancy Abrahams’ one-year old son Charlie was suffering multiple daily seizures and having side effects of multiple drugs and a failed brain surgery. He started the ketogenic diet and was drug and seizure free within a month. He was on the diet for five years and was cured. Charlie has never had another seizure and is now a 27-year-old pre-school teacher who eats whatever he wants. This story offers hope to many people who have followed the standard of care for the treatment of epilepsy and have not improved. In addition, our mission includes educating the public about the latest research on other conditions that can benefit.

Meryl Streep and the Keto Diet?!

The Foundation has shared the story of their son Charlie in countless media outlets. Charlie’s father, Jim Abrahams, wrote, directed and produced a film called “First do no Harm” staring Meryl Streep (1997). Many people even today learn about ketogenic diet therapy for epilepsy through this film.

How Widespread is the Keto Diet Now?

When Charlie started the ketogenic diet, he was one of perhaps a dozen people in the world using the diet for any purpose. Today there are 250 ketogenic diet centers globally and tens of thousands of keto patients who are living with fewer or no seizures and fewer or no drugs. We have media to support diet therapy for professionals and for the end user. We offer a vast YouTube library with information from many of the world’s top keto clinicians, nutritionists and scientists.

What is the Keto Diet Calculator?

We also have an online Ketodietcalculator program with over fifty thousand subscribers.  In addition, we have a directory of global centers that offer the diet, and a phenomenal recipe link. We also provide our vetted list of independent ketogenic diet nutritionists who are available for consultation on a private individual basis.  We organize, support, and speak at conferences around the world to share our resources and to promote the latest in ketogenic research.

More Keto Diet Information!

For more information on the Keto Diet checkout these helpful articles:

Thank you for another wonderful article! You are very inspiring.


35 responses to “Interview with a Top Keto Diet Expert”

    • Frankie, thanks for your question! The answer is that sugar is sugar on the Keto Diet regardless of the source, so it wouldn’t matter if the sugar is white sugar, coconut sugar, or maple syrup. The point is to not eat much of it at all!

  1. Great info I’ve been on the Keto Diet for a while and have been very happy with it BUT recently have fallen off and find it hard to get back on the wagon , please any suggestions!!

    • Susan, thanks for your comment! Happy to help, what are you finding to be the biggest challenge in getting back on the KD?

  2. Thank you Elana for another wonderful article! You are very inspiring. My question is about the chocolate. Have you found a 90% that you like that is organic? And for the small amount of sugar 90% has, do you feel it is better to have one with coconut sugar or honey, or do you find the small amount of white sugar in 90% to be fine? Thank you in advance, Tammy

    • Tammy, thanks for your comment! When it comes to the Keto Diet the type of sugar really does not make any difference. The best organic dark chocolate I’ve found is Theo 85% :-)

        • Frankie, that’s a great question! It’s because the point of the Keto Diet when it comes to sugar, is to count carbs and manipulate your macros so that you eat very few carbohydrates to reduce inflammation in the body. For some people any type of sweetener (whether white sugar, maple sugar, or honey) is highly inflammatory :-)

  3. Elana,
    Thank you for always sharing such important information in an easily accessible format. My son (10 years old) was on the ketogenic diet for seizure control for over 2 years. Due to multiple SNPs in his genes he cannot take anti-seizure medication so the diet was our only option. It was an easy transition for him since our family followed a Paleo diet since he was age 3. My son’s seizures were under control 6 weeks into the keto diet. He had one seizure a little over a year into the diet (triggered by illness). Over the course of more than 2 years on the diet he only had the one seizure. He has been off the diet since May 2019 and is still seizure free. I am so thankful that everything is under control for him and he has been able to introduce more carbs (fruit and grain free treats). As the old saying goes, “Let food be thy medicine.” Keto is truly an application of that saying. I just wish more children with special needs had doctors who were willing to prescribe the diet.

    • Erin, you’re welcome! What a phenomenal testimonial about the Keto Diet controlling epilepsy! Thank you so much for generously sharing your son’s story here. I’m so glad we’re on this journey together :-)

  4. Thank you Elana! This information is tremendous! I’ve been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism since 1996 would you recommend I follow the 1:1 Keto Diet?
    Awaiting your insightful response! Nasreen Bhalloo

    • Nasreen, thanks for your super sweet comment! Sadly, I can’t give out advice on the internet, but I can tell you I love the 1:1 KD, and although I haven’t mentioned it here much, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s sometime around 2003, and suffer from hypothyroidism. I hope you’ll stay in touch and keep me posted on how you do :-)

      • You are most welcome ! Elana thank you so much for your prompt response! You are a lifesaver! I will definitely stay in touch and keep you posted with my progress!

  5. Great article! You and The Charlie Foundation are such wonderful resources!

    I’m one of those people that don’t tolerate Stevia. I’ve tried all the top brands of liquid and powder. Any idea why some tolerate and others don’t?

    Thanks so much for all you do Elana!

    • Windee, this is such a great question and I really need to do a full blog post on it. I’ve spoken to tons of folks about this to gather anecdotal data and I think it’s like cilantro. Some people love it while others say it tastes like soap to them. I think it might be a difference in genetics, but I’m still researching. What does stevia taste like to you? :-)

      • No problem with the taste if I’m using a higher quality product like Sweetleaf. My problem is that I get slight heart palpitations and or an off feeling in my body. I know that’s vague but when you’ve had health issues a long time you know that feeling. I just have a strong sense I shouldn’t ingest it and was wondering if others have a similar response. I’ve always been baffled by it.

        I made your almond flour cupcakes with raspberry and fig surprise for my sisters birthday. Everyone went crazy for them!
        Thanks so much,

        • Windee, in terns of stevia I use Sweetleaf and NuNaturals and they’re great! So glad to hear you’re enjoying the cupcakes :-)

  6. Elena, I have been skeptical about the keto diet, but after reading that article I am feeling like I would like to give it a try for 6 months and see how it fits with me. There are many many plans out there, do you have a suggestion for a flexible plan as a starter, something simple. Thank you again for your dedication and your wonderful recipes. Kate

    • Katie, thanks for your comment and happy to help! I like a 1:1 Keto Diet, it’s easy to follow and I get great health benefits from it :-)

  7. Wonderful article and interview! Thank you Elana for featuring her. Beth is an amazing resource and true pioneer in the field of ketogenic therapies. It’s been our privilege to have her experience and wisdom guiding the Charlie Foundation!

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