Controversial Atkins Diet may be beneficial for people with epilepsy

January 31, 2005

Imagine that your child with epilepsy could have seizures less frequently, by eating more protein and less carbs. The first comprehensive review of possible dietary treatments of epilepsy has recently been published. Among those dietary regimens is the low-carbohydrate Atkins Diet which has proven successful in suppressing epileptic seizures in a small series of patients. The review, published in Epilepsy Currents, explores the benefits of low-carb, high protein, and other restricted dietary therapies for patients with epilepsy.

There are a number of diets being tried to help people with epilepsy. The ketogenic diet (KD), a high fat, adequate protein, and low carbohydrate diet, is the most well known of dietary therapies amongst the epilepsy community. It was initially devised in 1921 to "mimic the anticonvulsant effects of fasting, which were known to suppress seizures." Because the KD is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, the body is forced to burn fat for energy, a process called ketosis. The review explains that this shift in energy results in an anticonvulsant effect, though the exact mechanisms are still not fully understood.

Another treatment, still in preliminary stages, is a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). This may be another option to control seizures. A diet enriched in PUFA has shown to help in brain development and decreases the excitability of nerve cells that can induce seizures. Additionally, a diet high in PUFA may help against the degenerative effects of Alzheimer disease.

These diets have been successful to a point, but each has drawbacks in terms of implementation. As success has been observed with the Atkins diet, people with epilepsy might find this diet to be easier to follow.

"Unfortunately, our knowledge about the relation between nutrition and epilepsy is in its infancy," states author Dr. Carl E. Stafstrom. "Aside from the ketogenic diet, nutritional modalities to treat epilepsy are premature. Nevertheless, as indicated in this review, several potential treatment adjuncts are on the horizon... The potential benefits of dietary alterations comprise an intriguing and novel approach to epilepsy treatment."
This article is published in Epilepsy Currents. Media wishing to receive a PDF please contact

About the Author
Carl E. Stafstrom, MD, Ph.D. is Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Stafstrom has done over ten years of laboratory research investigating the mechanisms of the ketogenic and PUFA diets. He is a practicing clinical pediatric neurologist and has used the ketogenic diet extensively in the treatment of children with epilepsy. He is the author of a recent book called Epilepsy and the Ketogenic Diet. Dr. Stafstrom can be reached for questions and interviews at

About Epilepsy Currents
The American Epilepsy Society and Blackwell Publishing are pleased to present Epilepsy Currents. This bi-monthly current-awareness journal provides reviews, commentaries and abstracts from the world's literature on the research and treatment of epilepsy. Epilepsy Currents surveys and comments on all important research and developments in a format that is easy to read and reference. Each issue of Epilepsy Currents is divided into two main sections, Basic Sciences and Clinical Sciences. An outstanding Editorial Board reviews the literature and assigns topics and articles to world experts for comment. In addition, the Editors commission authoritative review articles on important subjects.

About the American Epilepsy Society
The American Epilepsy Society (AES) is one of the oldest neurological professional organizations in the nation, with roots dating to 1898. The Society promotes research and education for professionals dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of Epilepsy. Membership in the Society is made up of clinicians, researchers investigating basic and clinical aspects of epilepsy, and other health-care professionals interested in seizure disorders.

About Blackwell Publishing
Blackwell Publishing is the world's leading society publisher, partnering with more than 550 academic and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 750 journals and 600 text and reference books annually, across a wide range of academic, medical, and professional subjects.

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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