Cream treatment for epilepsy

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The Independent Online
TWO YOUNG brothers have been promised as much cream as they can eat after doctors suggested that it might help their epilepsy.

Rory and Freddy McDonald, aged eight and three, have been eating a large tub of cream a day since February, and their parents have seen dramatic improvements in their medical condition.

Now a national dairy has promised the family, from Middlesbrough, Cleveland, a free supply in the hope that the improvement can be maintained.

The boys' mother, Sally McDonald, 36, said the benefits were clear but the extra cream was adding pounds 15 to the weekly shopping bill. She said Rory had been unable to sit or swallow before starting on the diet but his epilepsy was now better controlled and he was taking fewer drugs. "The change was remarkable within 24 hours. I could control his seizures. His quality of life has improved and so has ours."

The cream is part of a ketogenic diet which has been known for decades to control epilepsy in some children. It involves high levels of fat and protein and very low levels of carbohydrates. That means children may not eat bread, potatoes or cereals and it is very difficult for them to stick to it for long periods of time.

Mrs McDonald said: "The treatment is rare in this country. No one knows why the fat-rich, sugar-free diet works, but it has dramatic results."

The remedy recently regained popularity in the USA. Mrs McDonald said a forthcoming Hollywood movie, called First Do No Harm starring Meryl Streep, was to touch on the subject and would include the cream treatment.

Dr Bruce Scheepers, consultant at the David Lewis Centre for Epilepsy in Cheshire, said: "The difficulty is that the kids spend their lives trying to nick other kids' food because you have to maintain them on starvation levels of carbohydrates."

The diet results in the production of ketones in the body, which interfere with the triggering of fits, but the mechanism of their action on the brain is not understood. It works in children but is not effective in adults.

Express Dairies has agreed to supply the boys with as much cream as they can eat. Tim Wild, the company's general manager, said: "We did this out of concern for the boys. The amount is only a little bit out of our budget so we were delighted to help."