Tags: miracle | epilepsy | diet

'Miracle' Epilepsy Diet Discovery Made

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 11:43 AM

Doctors have known for decades that a high-fat, low-carb diet can reduce epileptic seizures in people who don’t respond to drug therapy, but couldn’t explain why. Now a team of Boston scientists has unraveled the mystery and determined such extreme diets activate a protein that modifies brain cell activity to block seizures.
The findings, reported by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, provide new support for dietary approaches to treat epilepsy and could even lead to the development of new treatments for it.
"Diet sounds like this wholesome way to treat seizures, but it's very hard. I mean, diets in general are hard, and this diet is really hard," said Gary Yellen, a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School who helped lead the study, published in the journal Neuron. "So finding a pharmacological substitute for this would make lots of people really happy."
For the new study, Yellen and colleagues examined what happens to the brains of mice placed on a so-called “ketogenic diet.” The extreme diet -- described by a 2010 New York Times article as "Epilepsy's Big, Fat Miracle" -- is designed to mimic the effects of starvation by drastically reducing sugar intake. That, in turn, triggers, nerve cells to switch from their usual fuel of blood sugar to fat byproducts called ketone bodies.
Researchers noted that switch can ease the seizures, convulsions, loss of motor control and consciousness epilepsy can cause. By studying mice, they were able to determine that the ketogenic diet has an effect on a particular protein – nicknamed BAD – involving in switching metabolism in brain cells from glucose to ketone bodies.
They were also able to modify the BAD protein in mice and, as a result, decrease the frequency of their seizures, which they said makes it a promising target for new epilepsy drugs.
The research was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.

© HealthDay

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Scientists determine how and why extreme high-fat, low-carb diets reduce epileptic seizures.
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 11:43 AM
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