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Survey on Epilepsy Topics: How much do you know about epilepsy and diets?

Can some epilepsy syndromes be treated with diets?
100 votes
Yes  48%
No    52%

Ketogenic Question

Yes, it is in fact true that some seizures can be treated with diet.  For some patients, following a special diet can completely eliminate seizures, while for others seizures can be reduced by half or one third.  There is also a population of patients that diet has no affect on seizures at all.  Infantile spasms and Dravet syndrome are two common diagnoses where the diet more often than not helps improves a patient’s seizures.  It is essential to note that these diets  have to be treated as medications.  “Cheat days” on these diets are similar to skipping a medication and can therefore cause regression in any progress made on them.  There are three diets that are commonly used to treat seizure disorder.  They are the ketogenic diet, the modified atkins diet, and the low glycemic index treatment.  Though there are differences in each of these diets, the goal is the same; to induce ketosis.  Ketosis occurs when the body begins to use fat as an energy source rather than glucose.  For some patients, this state can help control seizures. 

So, how do we get to ketosis?  Since fat normally takes a back seat to glucose (sugar) as the body’s energy source, the way to get the body to utilize fat is to severely restrict carbohydrate intake and increase fat intake in a patient’s diet.  Carbohydrate foods include all grain products, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and sweets.  Pure fat products are oil, heavy cream, butter, margarine, and mayonnaise.  Depending on the diet, a patient’s meals can be anywhere from 70-90% fat.

Dana Casendino, RD, registered dietician at the Northeast Regional Epilepsy Group

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