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Scientists explain how a specific diet may help epilepsy patients

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Posted November 30, 2015

Living with uncontrolled epilepsy is unimaginable for healthy people. It certainly makes life of the patient as well as of those around him very difficult. However, now scientists from UCL and Royal Holloway University of London revealed that there is a specific diet which helps treating patients with uncontrolled epilepsy.

Scientists say that the secret of controlling seizures in epilepsy may be in ketogenic diets. They have high fat, low carbohydrate and controlled protein content and feature decanoic acid, which blocks the seizures. Image credit: Tom Woodward via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientists say that the secret of controlling seizures in epilepsy may be in ketogenic diets. They have high fat, low carbohydrate and controlled protein content and feature decanoic acid, which blocks the seizures. Image credit: Tom Woodward via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientists performed tests that give preliminary results that show how decanoic acid (fatty acid found in foods assigned to ketogenic diets) acts to block seizures in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. This means that seizures can be easier controlled by using specific diets. Ketogenic diets feature high fat, low carbohydrate and controlled protein content. Surprisingly, their positive effects on epilepsy patients have been known for years, but the mechanism got figured out only now. It turns out, it all relies on decanoic acid, which blocks a key neurotransmitter receptor involved in brain activity.

Scientists say that this research will allow them to develop improved formulas that in turn will significantly improve current treatments for epilepsy. They say that new treatments and simple management techniques will benefit both children and adults who are suffering from epilepsy. Professor Robin Williams, one of the researchers, said: “By examining the fats provided in the diet, we have identified a specific fatty acid that outperforms drugs currently used for controlling seizures, and that may have fewer side effects. Finding that the therapeutic mechanism of the diet is likely to be through the fat, rather than widely accepted by generation of ketones, may enable us to develop improved diets”.

It is known that over 50 million people worldwide are affected by epilepsy. Two thirds can control their seizures with current treatments and medications. However, for a third of the epilepsy patients seizures are uncontrolled. This is why this research is very important. Changing diet may not solve the problem entirely, but even a slight improvement would be very welcome by those who are affected.

Source: UCL

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