The low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet has gained mainstream popularity as a weight loss tool after celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Kendra Wilkinson lost dramatic amounts of weight since going low-carb. However, new research shows the ketogenic diet can also prevent seizures in epilepsy patients who don’t respond to drugs.
Jackson Small, a 10-year-old boy, has been seizure-free for two years after adopting a ketogenic diet in which he consumed up to 90% fat, CBS News reported. The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, moderate-protein diet that has been shown to fuel rapid weight loss by forcing the body to burn fat for fuel in a state called ketosis, said Dr. Eric Westman, co-author of Keto Clarity.
In addition to its weight loss benefits, ketosis has been shown to control epileptic seizures in both children and adults. Small began having seizures at age seven and eventually suffered up to 30 seizures a day due to his juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.
“He would stop in his tracks and not be aware of what was going on for 20 or 30 seconds,” said Jackson’s mother, Shana Small.
After drugs failed to control Jackson’s seizures, Courtney Glick, a registered dietitian at the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, prescribed a ketogenic diet that consisted of lots of butter, eggs, heavy cream, mayonnaise, sausage and bacon.
Jackson’s seizures stopped after he began following a ketogenic diet comprised of 1,700 calories a day consisting of 160 grams of fat, 30 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbohydrates. Jackson has been seizure-free for the past two years with little or no anti-seizure drugs, even though he no longer follows the ketogenic diet.
Scientists aren’t 100 percent certain why the ketogenic diet prevents epileptic seizures, but say the anti-inflammatory effects of the low-carb, high-fat diet may calm the brain. For those who can’t follow the strict ketogenic diet, a modified Atkins diet, which is roughly 65 to 70 percent fat, has also been shown effective for epilepsy patients.
Boy Who Had 300 Seizures Daily Is Now Seizure-Free
Jackson’s success with the low-carbohydrate, high fat ketogenic diet isn’t a stand-alone example. Charlie Smith, a six-year-old British boy, said the ketogenic diet changed his life. Smith used to suffer up to 300 epileptic seizures a day, but has not had a single seizure for the past two years since switching to the keto diet.
“The ketogenic diet has changed our lives for the better,” Smith’s mom told MetroUK. “As soon as Charlie switched to it, it was as if a cloud had been lifted. Charlie has his life back, and has not had an attack since he started the diet two years ago. It’s a miracle.”
Emma Williams, founder of Matthew’s Friends, a ketogenic diet foundation, hopes these encouraging reports will shine a spotlight on ketogenic diet therapy to manage epilepsy. “In an ideal world, ketogenic therapy should be considered for all children whose seizures fail to respond to the first two appropriate medications,” said Williams.
The ketogenic diet has also proven effective for reversing type 2 diabetes, preventing Alzheimer’s disease and treating metastatic cancer, renowned cancer scientist Dr. Thomas Seyfried told me in an exclusive interview.
“The ketogenic diet is a single metabolic approach to a multitude of different diseases,” said Dr. Seyfried, whose decades of cancer research at Boston College indicates that cancer is a metabolic — not a genetic — disease. Seyfried joins a growing number of researchers who say the ketogenic diet can treat many forms of cancer.
This is because nearly all the healthy cells in our body have the metabolic flexibility to use fat, glucose and ketones to survive, but cancer cells lack this metabolic flexibility and require large amounts of glucose and cannot survive on ketones. So by limiting carbohydrates, we can reduce glucose and insulin and restrict the primary fuel for cancer cell growth.
Dr. Seyfried says the time has come for the medical community to publicly acknowledge the viability of the ketogenic diet as an inexpensive, non-toxic way to treat cancer. “The standard of care has been an abysmal failure for cancer,” said Seyfried. “The ketogenic diet may one day replace the standard of care for most cancers.”