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Further research studies into ketogenic diet

9 July, 2001

A new study finds the ketogenic diet is an effective treatment for infants with intractable seizures.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, adequate protein, low carbohydrate diet designed to mimic many of the biochemical changes associated with prolonged starvation and is used as an alternative medical treatment for children with difficult-to-control epilepsy.

Researchers at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago studied 32 young children with epilepsy who had been treated with the ketogenic diet using a special ketogenic formula. The formula was introduced gradually to the infants over 24 hours.

The diet's effectiveness in infants appears to be about the same as reported on older children studied. Close to 20 per cent of the infants on the ketogenic diet became free of seizures and another 35 per cent had more than a 50 per cent reduction in the number of seizures experienced. Parents also reported improvements in the child's behavior and function, including attention, alertness, activity level, and socialization.

While researchers considered the diet well tolerated by the infants, there were some adverse side effects including kidney stone, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and an excess of fats in the blood.

Researchers conclude that the ketogenic diet should be considered a safe and effective treatment for infants with intractable seizures. They add that some complications can occur; therefore, they recommend that those being considered for this treatment should be watched carefully by a physician

Meanwhile, researchers in the UK are to test the benefits of the diet on 120 children.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, the Central Middlesex Hospital and the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy will test the diet on one group of children who will be given the appropriate food as part of the diet and one group will take the fat as a drink or medicine.