'Extreme Atkins' diet can treat epilepsy in children

Doctors have confirmed that a special high-fat diet can help children seriously afflicted with epilepsy.

Among children given the diet, seizures dropped by more than a third over a three-month period.

At the same time, children not given the diet experienced a more than 33 per cent rise in seizures.

The ketogenic diet has been successfully used to treat children with drug-resistant epilepsy since the 1920s. However, this was the first time it had been tested in a randomised trial.

The diet consists of large amounts of fat, little carbohydrate and controlled amounts of protein.

It is thought to mimic the biochemical response to starvation, when ketone bodies fuel the brain rather than sugar.

Ketone bodies, used as an energy source for the heart and brain, are compounds produced when fatty acids are broken down in the liver and kidneys. They provide a vital energy lifeline when fasting.

The trial, based at the Institute of Child Health at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, involved 145 children aged two to 16, who suffered epilepsy fits at least one a day or more than seven times a week.

Around half the children were assigned a ketogenic diet immediately. The other half were given the diet after a delay of three months.

In the diet group, the number of seizures dropped by more than a third. Children who had to wait before having a ketogenic diet saw the number of seizures they suffered rise by about the same amount.

A total of 28 children in the diet group saw a more than 50% seizure reduction. Five children on the ketogenic diet had their seizures cut by more than 90% compared with none in the comparison group.

The findings are reported in the journal The Lancet Neurology.

Study authors Professor Helen Cross from the Institute of Child Health, and research dietician Dr Liz Neal wrote: "The ketogenic diet has not had the same kudos as medication, because it has been claimed there is no evidence base, and it is thought to be difficult to adhere to. In fact, this trial shows it is as effective as any new anti-convulsant drug. If this was a new drug we had tried, regulators would be making it freely available.

"In view of this we believe that the diet should be more widely available as a treatment on the NHS, for children with epilepsy who have failed to respond to anti-convulsant medication. We stress this is a diet which should only be undertaken on medical advice and under medical and dietetic supervision." The most frequent side effects associated with the diet were constipation, vomiting, lack of energy and hunger.

In an accompanying commentary, Dr Max Wiznitzer, from the Rainbow Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, US, said more information was needed about the long-term effects of the ketogenic diet.

He added: "Better identification of epilepsies that benefit from starting early on the ketogenic diet and comparisons between the choices of ketogenic diet are needed."

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

    £26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn