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A high-fat diet could help treat refractory epilepsy

Published on October 21, 2014 at 14:41 / Updated on April 17, 2019 at 13:21

When epilepsy does not respond to treatments, it can be a terribly incapacitating disease. Since the 1920’s, many have believed that a diet very high in fat can help decrease the symptoms of this disease. Even though this alternative treatment has until now been considered as a marginal alternative therapy, a British study brings a certain legitimacy to this type of treatment.

A group of British researchers conducted a study with 145 epileptic children between the ages of 2 and 16 who were experiencing at least seven seizures per week, and who had not responded to at least two anticonvulsant medications. Among the children who had adopted the diet rich in lipids, 38% saw the frequency of their seizures decrease by half, compared to a decrease of only 6% for those who had not modified their diet. Among those who followed the special diet, five young epileptics even saw the frequency of their seizures decrease by 90%.

Although the exact mechanism of action remains unknown, it is thought that this diet forces the body to burn fat rather than sugar to get its energy. This is a state known as ketosis. A breakfast respecting the principals of this diet might consist of eggs, bacon, cheese and a cup of heavy cream diluted with water. Some of the children actually had to drink oil to get the amount of fat that is needed to achieve ketosis. In this diet, every gram of food is weighed and carbohydrates are almost entirely banished. Even eating a few cookies could be enough to increase the frequency of the seizures.

In the past, children whose epilepsy revealed itself refractory to standard treatments had very few options. Although this diet has been known for nearly 100 years, the diet ultra-rich in fat was often not even considered because there was never enough serious proofs of it efficacy. The results of this British study could bring about the credibility it needed to convince physicians to, at the very least, give it a try.

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