Controversial Atkins Diet may be beneficial for people with epilepsy

01/31/05

Imagine that your child with epilepsy could have seizures less frequently, by eating more protein and less carbs. The first comprehensive review of possible dietary treatments of epilepsy has recently been published. Among those dietary regimens is the low-carbohydrate Atkins Diet which has proven successful in suppressing epileptic seizures in a small series of patients. The review, published in Epilepsy Currents, explores the benefits of low-carb, high protein, and other restricted dietary therapies for patients with epilepsy.

There are a number of diets being tried to help people with epilepsy. The ketogenic diet (KD), a high fat, adequate protein, and low carbohydrate diet, is the most well known of dietary therapies amongst the epilepsy community. It was initially devised in 1921 to "mimic the anticonvulsant effects of fasting, which were known to suppress seizures." Because the KD is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, the body is forced to burn fat for energy, a process called ketosis. The review explains that this shift in energy results in an anticonvulsant effect, though the exact mechanisms are still not fully understood.

Another treatment, still in preliminary stages, is a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). This may be another option to control seizures. A diet enriched in PUFA has shown to help in brain development and decreases the excitability of nerve cells that can induce seizures. Additionally, a diet high in PUFA may help against the degenerative effects of Alzheimer disease.

These diets have been successful to a point, but each has drawbacks in terms of implementation. As success has been observed with the Atkins diet, people with epilepsy might find this diet to be easier to follow.

"Unfortunately, our knowledge about the relation between nutrition and epilepsy is in its infancy," states author Dr. Carl E. Stafstrom. "Aside from the ketogenic diet, nutritional modalities to treat epilepsy are premature. Nevertheless, as indicated in this review, several potential treatment adjuncts are on the horizon… The potential benefits of dietary alterations comprise an intriguing and novel approach to epilepsy treatment."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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