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High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet can Curb Epileptic Seizures

Update Date: Oct 30, 2014 10:23 AM EDT

People with epilepsy can benefit from eating a ketogenic or a modified Atkins diet. According to a new study, these high-fat, low-carb diets reduced the number of seizures in adults with hard to control epilepsy.

"We need new treatments for the 35 percent of people with epilepsy whose seizures are not stopped by medications," study co-author Dr. Pavel Klein said according to WebMD. "The ketogenic diet is often used in children, but little research has been done on how effective it is in adults."

For this study, the researchers examined the effects of eating a ketogenic diet, which consists of a fat to protein/carbohydrate ratio of three or four to one, or a modified Atkins diet on epileptic people. The modified Atkins diet involved foods such as bacon, eggs, heavy cream, butter, fish and greens eaten in a one-to-one (fat to protein/carbohydrate) ratio. The team looked at data from two sets of five studies. The first set tracked 47 people eating a ketogenic diet and the second set followed 85 people on the modified Atkins diet.

The researchers found that both diets led to a reduction in the number of seizures experienced by the participants. The ketogenic diet was linked to decreasing the number of seizures by 50 percent or more in 32 percent of the people and by 90 percent or more in nine percent of the people. In the modified Atkins group, 29 percent of participants experienced a drop in seizures by 50 percent or more while five percent of them had a drop by 90 percent or more.

The team noted that the benefits happened within days or weeks of starting the diet and lasted as long as the people continued following the diet. However, the researchers found that due to the difficulty of maintaining these types of diets, many people dropped out of the study.

"Unfortunately, long-term use of these diets is low because they are so limited and complicated," said Klein, from the Mid-Atlantic Epilepsy and Sleep Center in Bethesda, MD. "Most people eventually stop the diet because of the culinary and social restrictions. However, these studies show the diets are moderately to very effective as another option for people with epilepsy."

The study, "Dietary treatment in adults with refractory epilepsy," was published in the journal, Neurology.

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