A study report supporting their conclusion, and believed to be one of the first analyses of the long-term safety and efficacy of the diet, appears online in the February edition of the journal Epilepsia.
The ketogenic diet, consisting of high-fat foods and very few carbohydrates, is believed to trigger biochemical changes that eliminate seizure-causing short circuits in the brain's signaling system. Used as first-line therapy for infantile spasms and in children whose seizures cannot be controlled with drugs, the diet is highly effective but complicated and sometimes difficult to maintain. It can temporarily raise cholesterol, impair growth and, in rare cases, lead to kidney stones, among other side effects.
"Despite its temporary side effects, we have always suspected that the ketogenic diet is relatively safe long term, and we now have proof," says senior investigator Eric Kossoff, M.D., a pediatric neurologist and director of the ketogenic diet program at Hopkins Children's. "Our study should help put to rest some of the nagging doubts about the long-term safety of the ketogenic diet," he adds.
The evidence is based on a study of 101 patients ages 2 to 26 years treated with the ketogenic diet for a minimum of 16 months and for up to eight years at Hopkins Children's between 1993 and 2008. At the time of the follow-up, patients were off the diet anywhere between eight months and 14 years. Nearly 80 percent of the patients remained either seizure-free or had their seizures reduced by half. Most patients' seizures did not worsen even years after stopping the diet.
Researchers caution it is possible that some effects may not show up for decades. However, the evidence, especially among patients who were off the diet for more than 10 years, suggests no long-term harm.
During interviews, none of the patients reported adverse cardiovascular side effects such as heart attacks, enlargement of the heart or abnormal plaque buildup in their arteries. One patient reported having high blood pressure.
Only two of the 101 patients reported kidney stones after stopping the diet, the same rate found in the general population not treated with the ketogenic diet, the researchers say.
None of the 25 patients who had liver and kidney function tests had abnormal results. Among the 26 patients who had their cholesterol tested, the average level was 157 milligrams per deciliter of blood (less than 200 is considered normal), with three of the 26 having abnormal levels. Most patients' cholesterol levels go up while on the diet, but are believed to return to normal thereafter. The Hopkins study now confirms that this is the case.
Most patients older than 18 at the time of the study had normal body mass index of 22 on average (25 and below is considered normal). And most of them were within a few inches of their expected heights, based on their parents' heights. Patients 18 years and younger at the time of the study were, on average, in the 25th percentile for height and in the 36th percentile for weight for their age. While this is below average, the investigators say, it is also much higher than the usual 5th–to-10th percentile while on the diet.
"We have every reason to believe that most children will start catching up once they are off the diet as they grow up because this is what we see in older former patients," Kossoff says.
Contrary to the fear of many parents, the diet does not appear to alter patients' food preferences, the researchers say. Only 8 percent of those in the study said they continued to eat predominantly high-fat foods.
Conflict of interest disclosure: Dr. Kossoff has received grant support from Nutricia, Inc. and consultant fees from Nutricia and Atkins Nutritionals Inc.
The research was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and the Carson Harris Foundation.
Co-investigators include Amisha Patel, Paula Pyzik, Zahava Turner and James Rubenstein.
Related on the Web:Daily Potassium Citrate Wards Off Kidney Stones in Seizure Patients in High-Fat Diet http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/Daily_Potassium_Citrate_Wards_Off_Kidney
_Stones_in_Seizure_Patients_On_High-Fat_Diet.aspxHigh Cholesterol Levels Drop Naturally in Children on High-Fat Anti-Seizure Diet http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/high-cholesterol-levels-drop-children
Modified Atkins Diet Effectively Treats Childhood Seizures http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/Modified-Atkins-Diet-Treats-Childhood-Seizures.aspx
Carson Harris-A patient story http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/tpl_rlinks_nobanner.aspx?id=5972&terms=carson+harris
Journal Epilepsia http://www.epilepsia.com/
Routing gene therapy directly into the brain
07.12.2017 | Boston Children's Hospital
New Hope for Cancer Therapies: Targeted Monitoring may help Improve Tumor Treatment
01.12.2017 | Berliner Institut für Gesundheitsforschung / Berlin Institute of Health (BIH)
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
12.12.2017 | Life Sciences