Wednesday, January 20, 2010

High-Fat Diet Cures Epilepsy in Children

The Ketogenic Diet, a diet high in fats and low in carbohydrates, was first described in the 1920s at the Mayo Clinic. It is used to treat the 25% or so of children who do not respond to medications meant to control their epilepsy. The Ketogenic Diet literally consists of such meals as a stick of butter, followed by several pieces of bacon, and maybe a piece of fruit, however doctors who have had patients on the Ketogenic Diet say few develop medical issues such as high cholesterol.

The diet mimics starvation and forces the brain to replace glucose as an energy source with ketone bodies produced by the liver. This results in a condition known as "ketosis," and for whatever reason, it completely cures about 1/3 of the children who are placed on the Ketogenic Diet. A full 50% of those who are placed on the diet show some signs of improvement.

The diet was widely prescribed shortly after its discovery, but abandoned a decade or so later when effective anticonvulsant drugs became available. It wasn't until the 1990s that interest in the Ketogenic Diet was renewed, thanks to a movie producer known as Jim Abrahams - the guy who brought us such slapstick comedy classics as Airplane! and Ruthless People. Abrahams' epileptic son was one of the unfortunate 1/4 of patients who did not respond to anticonvulsants.

The diet is also said to help some adult patients and is being prescribed to sufferers of other neurological disorders to see if it is beneficial in those cases. No conclusions can be drawn so far, due to insufficient data, but trials continue.

© C Harris Lynn, 2010
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