Epilepsy dietBy John Pastor • Published: July 7th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
Most people try to avoid fats.
But children with epilepsy who consume a startling number of fat calories through a special diet may receive some protection from seizures.
Described as sudden surges of electrical activity in the brain, seizures can be mild or completely disabling.
In a study of more than one-hundred children who had untreatable, daily seizures, researchers at University College London tested the effectiveness of the “ketogenic [key-toe-jen-ick] diet.”
The diet has been in the epilepsy-care toolkit for more than eighty years, but it had never before been studied clinically.
Scientists confirmed that the eating routine reduced seizure frequency by thirty-eight percent after three months.
The amounts of food and liquid must be carefully planned and weighed to contain about four times as much fat as protein or carbohydrate.
The diet begins with a day’s fasting followed by utterly unbalanced, high-fat meals. Without proper supervision, a child will develop serious health problems, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
Don’t try this at home… not without medical guidance. But under a doctor’s direction, the diet does seem to help many children who do not respond to traditional epilepsy treatments.
Experts think the diet shifts a patient’s body into survival mode, where it burns fat instead of sugar, its normal fuel.
The same thing happens during starvation, when the body relies on fat stores for energy.
Why a diet that mimics starvation would also prevent seizures is unclear.
But it remains a bonafide tool to combat drug-resistant epilepsy in children.