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Switching Diets Could Reduce Epilepsy Patients Seizure Frequency

December 7, 2010

The ketogenic diet (KD) has been found to be effective in the treatment of refractory epilepsy in children. The KD is a low-calorie, low carbohydrate, high-fat diet that mimics starvation, forcing the body to burn fats instead of carbohydrates.

In the past decade, after researchers noticed a similarity with the KD and the Atkins diet, they developed the Modified Atkins Diet (MAD). The MAD tweaks the KD by placing no restrictions on calories, fluids, or proteins, while encouraging a higher fat intake. The MAD is initiated under physician supervision, either a neurologist or dietician.

When the MAD was first developed, physicians began transitioning their patients from the KD to the MAD. This research found that patients could maintain seizure control after making the switch. Physicians are now looking at the effects of switching from the MAD to KD in children with epilepsy. Eric Kossof, MD, and colleagues conducted an international, retrospective study of 28 patients (mean age of seizure onset=2.3 years) from 4 institutions who switched from the MAD to the KD. They wanted to determine if there was an increased chance of controlling a patient’s seizures after switching diets.

Kossof and colleagues found that 32% of patients had a >10% reduction in seizure while on the KD. Five of the patients suffering from myoclonic-astatic epilepsy soon became seizure free. The 5 patients whose symptoms were not improving while on the MAD also did not improve while on the KD.

Finally, the researchers believe that switching from the MAD to the KD might be of most benefit to patients with myoclonic-astatic epilepsy. They found that 78% of patients with myoclonic-astatic epilepsy had seizure improvements, while only 11% of other patients with forms of seizures improved. (2010 AES Annual Meeting Abstract 2.230) —Christopher Naccari

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