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Epilepsy Health Center

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Diet May Inspire New Epilepsy Drugs

New Findings Spurred by Ketogenic Diet for Epilepsy
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 16, 2006 -- The "ketogenic diet" might be the springboard for a new type of epilepsy drug.

The ketogenic diet strictly limits carbohydrates and may help control seizuresseizures in some people.

That's nothing new. The ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920s (and shouldn't be tried without medical supervision).

But the science behind the ketogenic diet and epilepsy seizures hasn't been understood.

Now, researchers have a new clue about how the ketogenic diet works, and they say that clue may eventually lead to new epilepsy drugs.

The finding comes from researchers including Avtar Roopra, PhD, of the neurology department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Their study appears in Nature Neuroscience's advance online edition.

More than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, 20 million of whom "continue to have seizures despite treatment with current antiepileptic drugs or surgery," Roopra's team writes.

The researchers reasoned that ketogenic diets, being low in carbohydrates, result in very little glycolysis (carbohydrate breakdown).

So the scientists tested a glycolysis-blocking chemical in a rat model of epilepsy.

The chemical, called 2DG (2-deoxy-D-glucose), reduced the number and severity of seizures in the rats.

"Our results show that 2DG has anticonvulsant and antiepileptic properties, suggesting that antiglycolytic compounds may represent a new class of drugs for treating epilepsy," write Roopra and colleagues.

The scientists haven't tested 2DG on people.

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