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How the Ketogenic diet works

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder of the nervous system. Muscle weakness, seizures, confusion, pain and even loss of consciousness happen when an attack occurs. One of the treatment methods to control difficult epilepsy cases is through the use of a ketogenic diet. Let us take a look how this works in paediatric epilepsy.

Features and benefits

In essence, the ketogenic diet is made up of the following features:

  • High fat
  • Low carbohydrates
  • Adequate proteins

How it works

To be effective, the body has to burn enough fat at a faster rate than carbohydrates. Under a usual rhythm, carbohydrates that are burned are converted into glucose which fuel body and brain functions. In the absence of carbs, the liver steps in converting fatty acids and ketones. In this regard, ketone levels are elevated leading to a state called ketosis. Ketosis, in effect, helps reduce the number of epileptic seizures.

Therapeutic treatment

This type of diet was originally meant as a therapeutic treatment in paediatric epilepsy. The principle of the diet was aimed at providing just the right amount calories for the child to attain the correct growth weight. The remaining proportion of food intake was to be composed of fats. For example, starchy fruits and veggies, grains, sugar and pasta are excluded. On the other hand, food high in fat content is increased. These include cream, nuts and butter.

Its disappearance

Ketogenic diets were classic therapeutic treatments in the 1920s and the 1930s. However, with the advent of anti-convulsant drugs, the diet was no longer used often. Research shifted to discovering new drugs such as sodium valproate which was popular in the 1970s.

Reviving the interest

Since 1996, there has been a resurgence of interest on the ketogenic diet because research findings demonstrated that those who adopted the diet experienced a drastic drop in seizures by as much as 50%. The effects even continued after the diet was stopped. Hence, the ketogenic diet is perceived as an effective treatment for paediatric epilepsy. At present, it is offered in 45 countries and at 75 centres to help manage seizures amongst children. But who knows, in the future, it might also provide relief to adult epilepsy patients?

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