Medical News Today: Can the keto diet treat epilepsy?

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Under medical supervision, the keto diet may help control seizures.

According to a 2019 review, the keto diet appears to reduce or prevent seizures in children and adults with drug resistant — or refractory — epilepsy.

The Epilepsy Foundation recommend the diet as a potential treatment for refractory epilepsy.

They report that more than half of children with refractory epilepsy who follow a ketogenic diet experience at least a 50% reduction in the number of seizures. Moreover, according to the same source, about 10–15% of these children stop experiencing seizures.

How does it work?

When a person is on the keto diet, their body does not receive enough carbohydrates to burn for energy, so it must use fat instead.

Burning fat for fuel causes acids called ketones to build up in the body. When this occurs, the body is in ketosis. To achieve this, a person must adhere to the diet for a significant period.

Ketosis also occurs during periods of fasting. As a 2013 study notes, people have used fasting as a seizure treatment for centuries, and scientists documented the effects of this approach into the 1920s. Even so, experts are still unsure how, precisely, ketosis or the keto diet helps people with epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a metabolic disease, and one theory is that the keto diet works by altering a person’s metabolism.

Neurons, or hyperexcitable nerve cells, in the brain may contribute to the onset of seizures. The keto diet leads to metabolic changes in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid, and these changes, along with other factors, may decrease the excitability of neurons. This could have a stabilizing effect on seizures, according to experts.

The keto diet can take time to have an effect. In order to see the benefits, people should continue with it for at least 3 months after reaching ketosis.

It is very important that a healthcare professional monitors anyone using a keto diet for treatment. They can ensure that the diet is having safe effects and that the person’s body is really going into ketosis.

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