A review of current research published in Neurology presents a promising alternative treatment for epileptic seizure reduction – diets high in fats and low in carbohydrates. Researchers aimed to review the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic and modified Atkins diets for the treatment of refractory epilepsy (drug-resistant epilepsy) in adults. Both diets have proved successful in children so far.
It appears that about 60-65% of patients with epilepsy become seizure free with antiepileptic drug treatment. However there’s a remaining 35%, who are resistant to medications.
For instance, Jackson Small, a 10-year-old boy, has been seizure-free for two years after adopting a ketogenic diet in which he consumed up to 90% fat, CBS News reported on Oct. 29. The ketogenic diet is a low carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet that has been shown to fuel rapid weight loss by forcing the body to burn fat for fuel in a state called ketosis, said Dr. Eric Westman, co-author of Keto Clarity. The ketogenic diet has gained mainstream popularity as a weight loss tool after celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Kendra Wilkinson lost dramatic amounts of weight since going low-carb.
Small began having seizures at age seven and eventually suffered up to 30 seizures a day due to his juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. After drugs failed to control Jackson’s seizures, Courtney Glick, a registered dietitian at the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, prescribed a ketogenic diet that consisted of lots of butter, eggs, heavy cream, mayonnaise, sausage and bacon.
Jackson’s seizures stopped after he began following a ketogenic diet comprised of 1,700 calories a day consisting of 160 grams of fat, 30 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbohydrates. Jackson has been seizure-free for the past two years with little or no anti-seizure drugs, even though he no longer follows the ketogenic diet.
But while the ketogenic diet is restrictive, not very palatable and logistically difficult to execute, the Atkins diet has been modified for use in patients with tough-to-treat epilepsy as an easier-to-execute variety of the ketogenic diet. The ratios of fat to carbohydrate and protein are for the Ketogenic diet: 3:1 or 4:1 [fat]:[carbohydrate 1 protein] ratio by weight, with 87-90% of calories derived from fat and for the modified Atkins diet: 0.9:1 [fat]:[carbohydrate 1 protein] weight ratio, with approximately 50% of calories derived from fat.
This new research published Wednesday reviewed nearly a dozen studies that examined the benefits of ketogenic and modified Atkins diets. The researchers found that overall, 32 percent of people treated with the ketogenic diet and 29 percent of those on the modified Atkins diet experienced improved seizure control by as much as 50 percent.