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Epilepsy Health Center

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Ketogenic Diet Raises Cholesterol in Kids

Findings Could Have Implications for All Who Eat Very High-Fat Diets
WebMD Health News

Aug. 19, 2003 -- Children with epilepsy who follow the ketogenic diet -- a rigidly high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet to control severe seizures -- experience dramatic and rapid increases in their cholesterol, researchers from Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Children's Center report.

Lead researcher Peter O. Kwiterovich Jr., MD, says the findings may have as much relevance for healthy children who eat diets that are very high in fat as adults who have adopted the high-fat, low-carb approach to eating as a lifestyle.

The Real Message

"The message is not that children with [uncontrollable] seizures should not be on this diet, because it can be remarkably effective and most children only stay on it for a few years," Kwiterovich tells WebMD. "But our findings suggest the distinct possibility that anyone who eats a very high-fat diet may be setting themselves up for later [blood vessel] disease."

The researchers followed a group of children with epilepsy who had been placed on a ketogenic diet after medications failed to control their seizures. Their study is published in the Aug. 20 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

How the Ketogenic Diet Works

The strictly controlled, very high-fat diet, which is also low in carbohydrates and proteins, has been shown to reduce seizures dramatically or eliminate them completely in a significant percentage of children who are placed on it.

Eliminating all sugars and simple carbohydrates and severely restricting other carbohydrates results in a condition called ketosis, in which the body burns stored fat instead of glucose for fuel. It is not clear why ketosis inhibits seizures, but in an earlier Johns Hopkins study involving 150 children with difficult-to-control epilepsy, more than half had a 50% or greater reduction in seizures and one-fourth experienced a 90% improvement.

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