Butter, cream and chicken - hope for epileptics

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Hope for children with epilepsy may lie in a
high-fat/low-carbohydrate diet, US researchers reveal this week.

Hope for children with epilespy may lie in a high-fat/low-carbohydrate diet, US researchers reveal this week. Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore carried out a long term follow-up of a high-fat/low-carbohydrate diet, called the ketogenic diet, to treat severe drug-resistant epilepsy. Between three and six years after stopping the diet, one quarter of 150 treated children were free from seizures and more than half showed a 50 per cent reduction in seizure frequency. While 70 per cent of children with epilepsy respond to medication, these drug-resistant children had shown no improvement after trying at least two different anti-seizure drugs. The ketogenic diet is designed to mimic the biochemical effects of starvation in the body. It was developed following a chance finding in the 1920s that long fasting periods cut seizures in epileptics. However, according to the New Scientist report the diet fell out of favour when new drugs were developed. The leading researcher John Freeman commented that putting patients on a very high fat, low carbohydrate and adequate protein diet helps boost levels of hydroxybutyric acid. A typical meal might involve roughly equal proportions of chicken, carrots, double cream and butter. Following the high-fat diet for two years is unlikely to cause significant long-term health problems, says Freeman. But some of the children he successfully treated suffered from such severe epilepsy - with up to 400 seizures per month - that "even if it took a year or so off their life, it would be worth it,"​ he said.

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