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19 August 2014

Ketogenic diet could reduce seizures in adults with epilepsy

A new study of the ketogenic diet, popular as a therapy for children with epilepsy, is showing promising results in adults. The study looked at 23 people with uncontrolled epilepsy who were following the ketogenic diet or modified Atkins diet.  Both of these are high in fat and  low in carbohydrates and require medical supervision.

Thirty-nine  per cent of the  adults on the ketogenic dietary therapies showed a 50 per cent or more decrease in seizure frequency. Sixty-five per cent were brighter and more alert and 61 per cent had less severe or shorter seizures.

These findings are similar to response rates in children which show that 40 per cent of those following the ketogenic diet for three months experience a 50 per cent of more decrease in seizures with greater alertness and better mood.

Professor Sanjay Sisodiya

Professor Sanjay Sisodiya, leading geneticist at Epilepsy Society and one of the authors of the audit said the results were encouraging and pointed to the need for further studies. 'This was a small audit and a controlled study is needed to better determine ketogenic dietary therapies response and tolerability rates in adults,’ he said.

The study was carried out by scientists in London and the Netherlands alongside three leading epilepsy charities, Epilepsy Society, Young Epilepsy and Matthew's Friends.

The 23 adults in the study group had a wide range of epilepsy syndromes and included 13 women and 10 men aged from 16 to 65 years. Five of the patients followed the classic ketogenic diet while the rest were on the modified Atkins diet. The period of follow up was  between one to 10 years.

Reduction in anti-epileptic medication

As well as a reduction in seizure frequency  and severity and greater alertness, 57 per cent experienced a quicker recovery period following a seizure, 35 per cent had more energy and 35 per cent were able to reduce the number of anti-epileptic drugs they were taking.

Some adverse effects were reported with 65 per cent experiencing constipation, diarrhoea and vomiting. Seven of the patients discontinued the diet as it was felt to be ineffective.

The ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet, Epilepsy Review, issue 7, summer 2013. Find out more about Epilepsy Review.

Read about our research into the ketogenic diet.