Proper Supervision and Diet May Help Control Epileptic Seizures in Children

April 13, 2009

The results of a recent study has shown that a "highly regimented ketogenic diet, a high-fat nutritional therapy used to limit seizures, requires long-term medical management and strong parental commitment to achieve both sufficient nutrition and improved seizure control in children."

What do whipping cream, butter, and vegetable oil have in common? They’re all part of a highly regimented ketogenic diet that, when combined with long-term medical management and strong parental commitment, may improve seizure control in children with epilepsy, according to results from an unpublished study conducted by researchers at The Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

The study researchers, Mary L. Zupanc, MD, professor of pediatrics and medical director, pediatric epilepsy program, and Beth Zupec-Kania, RD, CD, say that their approach has been quite effective; between 2002 and 2006, 43 children age12 months to 15 years adhered to a ketogenic diet, and half of the participants “had a greater than 90 percent reduction in seizure frequency.”

Part of the success of this diet is the assistance and close monitoring of the patient. Dr. Zupanc explained that “This diet cannot be tried by parents without close medical management and follow-up. It requires careful metabolic monitoring and precise supplementation of missing nutrients.” Zupec-Kania added that “Fat comprises between 80 and 90 percent of the diet’s calories and is provided by foods such as whipping cream, butter and vegetable oils. The remaining calories are allocated to essential protein requirements from meat and fish, and secondarily to low-carbohydrate vegetables and fruit. The elimination of carbohydrate-rich foods such as simple sugars, bread, pasta, cereals grains and milk makes this diet difficult for many patients to follow.”

The mechanism of seizure in this scenario is not completely understood; however, researchers explain that this diet “forces the body to accumulate large amounts of compounds such as acetone and acetoacidic acid, produced by the oxidation of fatty acids,” and “also restricts the intake of micronutrients such as vitamin D, calcium and phosphorous, which may already be low in those on long-term anti-epileptic drug therapy.”

While the diet may be tough for some patients to follow, the results may be worth the effort.

To read more about this story, visit www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090406084213.htm.