Does a ketogenic diet help kids who have seizures? According to previous research, a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet reduces the number of seizures in kids, even kids who have seizures that are difficult to control.
Now, a new study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Epilepsy Society provides more support for this type of diet to control seizures.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet is a diet that’s high in fat and low in carbohydrates. This type of eating plan encourages the body to use fat as a fuel source rather than glucose.
It can be a challenge to follow this type of diet since almost 80% of the day’s total calories must come from fat. To keep a child on this diet from getting too many calories, parents must carefully weigh out food portions for each meal.
In the beginning, a ketogenic diet requires a 24 hour fast, which is usually done in a hospital setting – and then the high-fat, low-carb diet is continued at home.
Ketogenic Diet for Seizures: Does It Work?
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, a ketogenic diet eliminates or significantly reduces seizures in about a third of kids who try them. Once a child’s seizures are under control and the child has been on the diet for at least two years, regular foods are slowly re-introduced while watching for seizure activity. If the seizures return, the child can restart the diet.
Some kids can’t tolerate the high-fat, ketogenic diet, and it requires strict control since even small amounts of sugar can precipitate a seizure once a child has become acclimated to it.
It helps to have a dietician assist with meal planning, in the beginning, to make ketogenic meals more palatable and pleasing to kids. Dieticians can teach parents how to weigh foods and offer kid-pleasing ketogenic recipes.
Children who are on a ketogenic diet may need vitamin supplements to reduce the risk of vitamin deficiencies.
A ketogenic diet for seizures can cause constipation and elevate levels of lipids in the blood, which may be a problem for some kids. The high-fat component of the diet can also trigger gallbladder problems. Parents need to be aware of these risks.
The Bottom Line?
One out of three kids become seizure-free or almost seizure-free on a ketogenic diet – but this diet can be challenging to follow, and it may cause side-effects such as gallbladder problems and elevated lipids.
If your child has seizures, talk to your doctor about whether a ketogenic diet is right for your child.
Family Practice News. February 1, 2011. page 34.
Epilepsy Foundation online.