In the latest study led by researchers from Johns Hopkins Children's Centre found that while most children developed high cholesterol after starting the diet, it gradually improved in nearly half of them, returning to normal or near-normal levels, with or without modifications to their diet to reduce fat intake.
''We are greatly encouraged by our findings because the nearly half of the children on the diet were either able to maintain healthy cholesterol or gradually metabolized the extra fat and returned to somewhat normal cholesterol levels,'' said senior investigator Eric Kossoff, M.D., a pediatric neurologist at Hopkins Children's.
The team looked at 121 epileptic children with intractable seizures on the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet designed to control such seizures.
They found that 40 percent of children maintained normal cholesterol even after starting the diet. Children fed a formula-based, liquid-only ketogenic diets were nearly three times less likely to develop high cholesterol.
The researchers also suggest that diet modifications including reducing total fat content or certain types of fats called saturated fats and adding nutritional supplements-reduced high cholesterol just as much as doing nothing.
They prescribed dietary modifications to increase ''good,'' polyunsaturated fats in the diets of 15 children with elevated cholesterol.
Dietary modifications decreased cholesterol by 20 percent in 9 out of the 15 (60 percent) children whose diets were modified. Surprisingly, cholesterol also dropped by at least 20 percent in 41 percent of the 37 children whose diets remained unchanged.
The findings, while encouraging overall, also mean that relying on diet changes alone may not do much for those children in whom cholesterol remains persistently elevated, and that new approaches for these patients are needed.
The findings are reported in the Journal of Child Neurology.