Ketogenic Diet and Epilepsy

The ketogenic diet has become more and more popular in the past few years, and there are several reasons why. Most people follow the rules of ketogenic diet in order to lose weight and to live a healthier lifestyle, but fortunately, studies have shown that the ketogenic diet can be applied successfully in case of some neurological conditions affecting the nervous system, the whole body and consequently, the patient’s whole life. In this article, we would like to provide a brief, yet detailed description of the ketogenic diet in general, its benefits and we would like to take a closer or look on epilepsy, and the connection between epilepsy and the ketogenic diet.

How ketogenic diet works?

First, the ketogenic diet may seem a bit complex and difficult to understand, but after reading this section, you’ll see that is not difficult at all. Basically, ketogenic (or ’keto’ for short) diet is a high fat-low carbohydrate diet that provokes the body to cover its energy needs from fat instead of carbohydrates. Normally, the consumed carbohydrates are converted into glucose, and then used throughout the body, including the brain. There are very few carbohydrates available during the ketogenic diet, so the liver breaks down fats into fatty acids and ketones. This state is called ketosis. Instead of glucose, ketones play the role of “energy carrier”. Interestingly, ketogenic diet has been developed primarily for the treatment of patients with epilepsy, especially children.

What is epilepsy?

More than sixty million people is suffering from the different types of epilepsy around the world. Most diagnosed patients have two or more non-provoked seizures. Let’s see what happens during such seizures. During seizures, nerve cells cannot transmit electrical impulses correctly, and this condition can lead to strange feelings, emotions, behaviors, cramps, or even loss of consciousness. It can be caused by a variety of causes, including epilepsy after various diseases, brain damage, brain developmental and genetic disorders. Studies have shown that epilepsy is more common in young children than in adults and the elderly.

Ketogenic diet & epilepsy

There are several kinds of medicine on the market for epilepsy but unfortunately, thirty percent of patients do not respond well to anti-epileptic drugs. In 2010, a team of international pediatric neurologists and dietitians commissioned by the Charlie Foundation (founded in the mid-1990s by Jim Abrahams) created a consensus statement on clinical treatment and neurological disorders eligible for ketogenic therapy. Results showed an improvement in half of children with epilepsy not responding to medication, and a significant improvement in one third. (1) According to a recent study, dieting for 6-24 month can reduce the incidence of epileptic seizures by up to 90%. (2)

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(1) Kossoff EH, Zupec-Kania BA, Rho JM. Ketogenic diets: an update for child neurologists. J Child Neurol. 2009 Aug;24(8):979–88. doi:10.1177/0883073809337162. PMID 19535814

(2) Gasior M, Rogawski MA, Hartman AL. Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet. Behav Pharmacol. 2006;17(5–6):431–9. PMID 16940764

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