Wednesday, February 17, 2010

High-fat, ketogenic diet effective treatment for seizures

This study is a little bit outside the realm of health and fitness, but I found it very interesting.  It seems that a high-fat, ketogenic diet (one that derives most of the body's energy from fat & ketones) is an effective treatment for seizures with no 'long-lasting side effects' such as heart disease and death most associated with a high-fat diet (by conventional wisdom definitions).

By definition, a ketogenic diet is also a low-carbohydrate diet.  I believe this study gives credence to those that link diabetes and obesity with a high-carbohydrate diet, which is what most Americans partake in.  Although, as I've stated before, obesity is due to eating more calories than one burns in a given period of time.  Incidentally, I don't think I've seen too many fat people whose lifestyle revolves around a diet rich in protein, veggies, and fat and very low in carbohydrates.  Take a gander at an obese person's diet and I guarantee (with very few outliers) that their diet is 50% or greater carbohydrates.

From what I could find, I did not see the researchers specify the source of the subjects fat intake, i.e. processed fat, animal fat, etc.  That would be an interesting detail to know, given that most processed fat are found in processed carbohydrates.

At any rate, I found it an interesting read.  I'll try and get the full PDF of the study.  Meanwhile, take a look at the abstract.


Purpose: The ketogenic diet has well-established short- and long-term outcomes for children with intractable epilepsy, but only for those actively receiving it. However, no information exists about its long-term effects years after it has been discontinued.

Methods: Living subjects were identified who were treated at the Johns Hopkins Hospital with the ketogenic diet from November 1993 to December 2008 for ≥1 month, and had discontinued it ≥6 months prior to this study. Of 530 patients who were eligible, 254 were successfully contacted by phone or e-mail with a survey and request for laboratory studies.

Results: Questionnaires were completed by 101 patients, with a median current age of 13 years (range 2–26 years). Median time since discontinuing the ketogenic diet was 6 years (range 0.8–14 years). Few (8%) still preferred to eat high fat foods. In comparison to the 52% responder rate (>50% seizure reduction) at ketogenic diet discontinuation, 79% were now similarly improved (p = 0.0001). Ninety-six percent would recommend the ketogenic diet to others, yet only 54% would have started it before trying anticonvulsants. Lipids were normal (mean total cholesterol 158 mg/dl), despite most being abnormal while on the ketogenic diet. The mean Z scores for those younger than age 18 years were −1.28 for height and −0.79 for weight. In those 18 years of age or older, the mean body mass index (BMI) was 22.2.

Discussion: This is the first study to report on the long-term effects of the ketogenic diet after discontinuation. The majority of subjects are currently doing well with regard to health and seizure control.

NOTE: Conflict of interest disclosure: Dr. Kossoff has received grant support from Nutricia, Inc. and consultant fees from Nutricia and Atkins Nutritionals Inc.
Until next time...

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