Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fat busts fits

17.10.2001


Diet could help when drugs fail epileptic children.
© Photodisc


A large, long-term study confirms that diet can help some epileptic children.

A strict high-fat, low-carbohydrate, calorie-restricted diet reduces seizures in children with intractable epilepsy. So concludes the largest and longest trial of an eating plan that was first suggested almost a century ago.

For about two years, epileptic youngsters on a ’ketogenic diet’ eat 25% less than normal and consume 90% of their daily calories as fats. They take vitamins and minerals to avoid malnutrition and their condition is monitored by a doctor and a dietician. There is currently a resurgence of interest in the diet, which was eclipsed by the development of anticonvulsant drugs.



It is "an excellent alternative" to drugs for children whose seizures cannot be controlled easily, says the study’s leader, John Freeman of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland. "What we’re seeing is a long-lasting effect," he adds.

The study1 confirms that the diet should not be considered merely as a last-ditch treatment for children resistant to conventional anti-epileptic therapies, but should be introduced sooner, says Patricia Szot of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Seattle, who is investigating the diet’s effects.

Others are more cautious. "Surgery might be more effective where epilepsy is caused by a brain lesion," points out Gary Mathern, director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Surgery Program at the University of California in Los Angeles. "It would have been useful," he notes, "if the results had been compared against a group that did not use the diet."

Carl Stafstrom, director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Research Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, is more enthusiastic: "It is time to stop chewing the fat about whether the diet works or not," he says. Researchers should, he suggests, "move on to optimizing it and characterizing the subgroups of children who are most amenable".

Around 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy - sudden and recurrent disruptions to their mental function, consciousness, senses or movements caused by sporadic malfunctions of certain nerve cells. Up to 30% of those are resistant to more than three medications and are said to have ’intractable epilepsy’2.

Food fight

Freeman’s team tracked 150 epileptic 5-year-olds who followed the diet for between 1 and 6 years. Before the trial, the children averaged 410 seizures per month and had each tried about six medications. Up to six years after the start of the diet, nearly half of the children had 50% fewer seizures. Twenty children had no seizures and 29 were medication-free.

Some 90% of parents involved in the study said they would "recommend the diet to someone else", although 41% were concerned that their children did not grow well on it.

Ketogenic meals produce a high blood concentration of partly burned fat molecules called ketone bodies. But it is not clear why this reduces convulsions. There is now a "flurry of activity", says Freeman, to identify the biochemistry underlying the treatment’s success and to develop new drugs that mimic its anticonvulsant effects.

References
  1. Hemingway, C., Freeman, J. M., Pillas, D. J. & Pyzik, P. L. The ketogenic diet: a 3- to 6-year follow-up of 150 children enrolled prospectively. Pediatrics 108, 898-905 (2001).

  2. Kwan, P. & Brodie, M. J. Early identification of refractory epilepsy. New England Journal of Medicine 342, 314-319 (2000)


XAVIER BOSCH | Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011018/011018-5.html
http://www.nature.com/nsu/

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'
16.11.2018 | Purdue University

nachricht Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal
14.11.2018 | Michigan Technological University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>