October 1, 2001
MEDIA CONTACT: David Bricker
Johns Hopkins neurologists report that a rigorously high-fat, low-carbohydrate
diet not only reduces the number of seizures in children with severe seizure
disorders, but also keeps the frequency of attacks lower years after the diet
A paper published in October's Pediatrics by Hopkins pediatric neurologist
John Freeman, M.D., and his colleagues shows more than half of the children
in a study of the so-called ketogenic diet continued to experience at least
a 50 percent reduction in seizures three to six years after going back on a
"Also notable," Freeman says, "is that many of the children
who had success after ending the diet were free of both anticonvulsant drugs
Freeman, along with Cheryl Hemingway, Diana Pillas and Paula Pyzik, say the
ketogenic diet is "an excellent alternative" for children whose seizures
cannot be easily controlled. "What we're seeing is long-lasting effect
for many children who used the diet," Freeman adds.
Freeman noted that those in the study represent seizure-prone children who
do not respond to at least two different anticonvulsant drugs. In addition,
children in the study had an average minimum of two seizures per week and were
between the ages of 1 and 16 years. Children were not excluded from the study
on the basis of what kinds of seizures they had.
Of the study's 150 children started on the ketogenic diet, 83 remained on the diet for at least one year. Three years after the last child was enrolled in the study, questionnaires were sent to all participating families; 107 questionnaires were completed. Families of 35 children were interviewed by phone. Parents were asked about the current frequency of seizures as well as if, when and why they removed their child from the diet.
One-third of the original 150 children were either seizure free or had greater
than a 90 percent reduction in seizures, and 44 percent of those were entirely
free from medication.
Freeman says that while the reason the ketogenic diet works continues to puzzle
neurologists and nutritionists, a "flurry of activity" is now under
way to reveal the biochemical reasons for the treatment's success. Many experts
believe the suppression of seizures is related to the build-up and breakdown
of ketones, natural metabolites that accumulate in cells programmed to conserve
The study was funded by grants from the Charlie Foundation to Cure Pediatric Epilepsy, by Jim and Nancy Abrahams, and by the Roxanne Fund.
Article citation: "The Ketogenic Diet: A 3- to 6-Year Follow-up of 150 Children Enrolled Prospectively" Pediatrics Vol. 108, No. 4; October 2001