'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
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEpic YouTube video features boundary-pushing staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    M&E Construction Planning Manager: Surrey

    £60000 - £90000 per annum + Car, Pension, Healthcare: Progressive Recruitment:...

    M&E Construction Planner Solihull

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Car, Healthcare, Pensions: Progressive Recruitment...

    PHP Developer - MySQL, RDBMS, Application Development

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: PHP Developer - MySQL, RDBMS, Applicatio...

    SAP Business Analyst - Data Migration, £75,000, Manchester

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP B...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star