Two high-fat diets, the ketogenic and the Atkins, can successfully treat epilepsy seizures in children, a recent research study has shown.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Children's Center have shown that more than 70 percent of the patients treated with either the ketogenic or the modified Atkins diet experienced at least 50 percent fewer seizures, and many showed as high as 90-percent improvement.
Absence epilepsy, so named after the multiple daily "absent" staring spells typical of the disorder, usually begins in childhood. But when developed during adolescence, absence epilepsy can also lead to more serious generalized seizures.
The ketogenic diet has been used since 1921 to successfully treat several forms of epilepsy in patients who don't respond to antiseizure medication. Made up of high-fat foods and few carbohydrates, the diet works by triggering biochemical changes that eliminate seizure-causing short circuits in the brain's signaling system.
The investigators' recommendations are based on observations of 21patients with absence epilepsy treated with either diet at Hopkins Children's, as well as on an exhaustive review of all studies on the subject published between 1922 and 2008.
Of the 21 Hopkins absence-epilepsy patients who were treated between 1993 and 2009 with either the ketogenic or the modified Atkins diet, 76 percent reported at least half as many seizures with one month of being on the diet.
Nearly 40 percent of them reported 90 percent fewer seizures, while nearly 20 percent became seizure-free.
After three months of diet treatment, 82 percent had at least a 50-percent reduction in the number of seizures, nearly half of the patients had 90 percent fewer seizures, and nearly 20 percent had no seizures at all. Both diets worked equally well.
Among the 133 patients described to date in the medical literature, 69 percent experienced at least 50 percent or greater reduction in the number of daily seizures, and 34 percent became seizure-free for at least a period of time. Some patients improved within three days of starting the diet, while others didn't do so until three months later.
The report has been published in the Journal of Child Neurology.