The diet is based on the traditional Atkins diet. The Atkins diet is designed primarily for weight loss and involves eating less carbohydrate (bread, pasta, potatoes), while eating more foods that are high in fat. The modified diet has a lower carbohydrate limit that the traditional Atkins diet. High-fat foods are also encouraged.
The study – led by Eric Kossoff – was conducted at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the US. Mr Kossoff said: “To our knowledge, the use of dietary therapy for JME has only previously been reported in a single patient, who was noted to be a responder at three months.”
According to the study, children and adults who followed the diet plan for at least one month experienced a significant reduction in seizure frequency.
The study looked at eight patients with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. All eight patients had a history of myoclonic seizures and most experienced absences and generalised tonic-clonic seizures. On average, they had previously tried around five epilepsy medicines and were taking either one or two when starting the diet.
After one month, six of the eight people had at least a 50 per cent reduction in seizure frequency. After three months, this was still the case in five of the eight people. Both myoclonic and generalised tonic-clonic seizures were reduced. Two patients became entirely seizure-free.
At an average follow-up of around 13 months, 50 per cent (half) of the patients were still on the modified Atkins diet. This diet is less restrictive than the ketogenic diet (another dietary treatment for epilepsy where foods must be weighed accurately to the gram to make it successful). Despite this, one patient had stopped the modified Atkins due to its restrictions.
Dr Kossoff says: “Dietary therapies offer patients with epilepsy a sense of control of their treatment, which can be empowering for individuals with JME.” The development can also lead to “anticonvulsant medication reduction and reduction of associated side-effects. Further studies are needed to compare the relative feasibility and efficacy of these treatments in this population.”
The full study findings were reported in the medical journal Epilepsy & Behavior.