Better seizure control with ketogenic diet in infants

Published: October 31 2019
Last updated: September 28 2022

Young children with epilepsy due to genetic causes respond better to ketogenic diet treatment compared to people with other types of epilepsy. This is according to a review of cases across 10 years at a Chicago hospital in the US. The results were published in Scientific Reports in June 2019.

The study author is John Millichap, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, US. He said: “Overall, we observed that the ketogenic diet continues to be a safe, effective and well-tolerated treatment for patients under three years of age with drug-resistant epilepsy.” “Clinicians could consider offering the ketogenic diet earlier to infants diagnosed with genetic epilepsy, perhaps even before it becomes clear that the patient is not responding to anticonvulsant medication.”

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate and protein restricted diet that has to be closely overseen by specialist doctors, nurses and dieticians.

“The ketogenic diet helps control seizures by reducing fluctuations of blood sugar, which reduces hyper-excitability in the brain,” explains Dr Millichap.

Generally, it is only recently that US epilepsy specialists have been offering a ketogenic diet to younger children. This latest research looks at the ketogenic diet in 109 young patients with various types of epilepsy that began in infancy. In the study, the youngest patient to start on the diet was three weeks old. Of the children in the study, nearly 20% achieved complete seizure control after three months on the diet and nearly 40% had significant seizure reduction. In children with genetic causes of epilepsy, the results were even better. Nearly half reported to have more than 50% fewer seizures.

Dr Millichap said: “The ketogenizain and parents need extensive support. Genetic testing should be performed as early as possible so that we can provide the most precise treatments right away,” said Dr Millichap. “Large studies are needed to explore which genetic epilepsies respond best to the ketogenic diet so that we can add it to our toolkit.”

The full study can be read here.