You may be familiar with the ketogenic (‘keto’) diet for weight loss, but an even stricter version of the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet is also widely used to help control epileptic seizures in children.
Many people with epilepsy find the strict dietary regimen difficult to follow due to the medical supervision required and highly-restrictive food choices.
Hunger and low energy are also side effects of the ketogenic diet, since the body’s main energy source, carbohydrates, are kept extremely low.
Dr Karin Borges and her team recently completed two clinical trials at the Queensland Children’s Hospital and the Royal Melbourne Hospital, demonstrating promising results for a less restrictive alternative treatment.
“People living with epilepsy need extra brain fuel to prevent and recover from seizures,” Dr Borges explains.
“If you have less energy in your brain cells, you are more likely to have a seizure.
Not only that, but it will also be harder for your brain to recover.
“In the lab, our research team discovered that medium chain triglycerides (MCT) – oils that can be added to regular meals – delivered an alternative source of energy to the brain.
“In addition, we found that MCTs could provide similar protection against seizures as the ketogenic diet.”
Even more encouraging, patients on the trial did not experience any of the typical side effects of anti-seizure medication, such as tiredness, behavioural disturbances or rashes.
“The next step is a large-scale clinical trial. Later this year we will apply for a Medical Research Future Fund grant to help fund an international study.”