Epileptic son advised to go on the ketogenic diet

Posted by sarahlou @sarahlou, Feb 26, 2019

Hello all, through our involvement in the 100k Genome Project, a mutation of one of our genes has been identified as the direct cause for our epilepsy. I can’t describe my feelings after 55 years of believing that I was just the odd one out, then 29 years for my son; watching his condition increase in severity as time goes on. The upshot of it is that he’s been advised to go onto the ketogenic diet, beginning with modified Atkins. We’re still
waiting for an appointment with the dietician so are doing our best with books and the Internet. Any advice will be warmly welcomed. Thankyou

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Epilepsy & Seizures Support Group.

Hi, @sarahlou – I'm guessing the project you are referring to being part of is https://www.genomicsengland.co.uk/?

I'm sorry to hear that your son's epilepsy has increased in severity over time. As you start with a modified Atkins diet and move to the ketogenic diet, I'd like to invite into this conversation for any tips or thoughts @jakedduck1 @lmcquade @pamelastewart5 @mrigs @jenniferhunter @thlas1971. Some of these members are familiar with epilepsy, and some with the keto diet or consideration of this diet.

What are your feelings about this diet recommendation, @sarahlou, and fitting these diet changes into the life of your family? Hopes for its impact on his condition?



This information was recently printed on the Epilepsy Foundation Forum.

How should we interpret negative studies on dietary therapy?

Research is a tricky unpredictable business.
As doctor-scientists involved in research, we hypothesize (make a prediction or propose a theory), then design a study to carefully prove our opinion, enroll subjects into the trial, and lastly make it happen. There can be problems along the way, but eventually the study ends and, along with statisticians, we analyze the results.

What happens when the results are negative, or DIS-prove our hypothesis?
How should parents and people with epilepsy interpret these often-confusing findings?
Does it mean the treatment (in this case, the ketogenic diet) doesn’t work?
What do we tell friends and family who see these negative results, sometimes on the internet?
Back in 2010, I published results from a small pilot trial of the modified Atkins diet for chronic daily headaches in teenagers. In this study, the diet unfortunately did not help. I strongly believe that negative results are important, guide the field (sometimes in new, different directions or towards better studies), and help doctors provide good honest advice to their patients.

In the past few months, there have been three published trials of the ketogenic and modified Atkins diet that can be classified based on results as negative. In addition, a ketogenic supplement was found by its developing pharmaceutical company to not be effective in a clinical trial.

Studies with Negative Results
For this edition of Keto News, I thought I’d focus on this issue and provide some general guidance for those reading these studies or being asked about it by friends and family.

“Implementation of ketogenic diet in children with drug-resistant epilepsy in a medium resources setting: Egyptian experience.” Dr. Gerges and the team from Cairo published results from a prospective study of 28 patients treated from 12/12-3/14 with a non-fasting, no-admission ketogenic diet. Unfortunately, the drop-out rate was very high, with only 3 patients remaining on the diet by 6 months. Using an intent-to-treat analysis (which assumes children who stopped the diet had no seizure reduction), only 3 of 28 (11%) were responders (greater than 50% seizure reduction), which is much lower than the typical 50% ketogenic diet responder rate by 6 months.
“Efficacy of the ketogenic diet in Chinese children with Dravet syndrome: A focus on neuropsychological development.” Dr. Liu and the team from Xiangya Hospital in Changsha China performed a study of 26 children with Dravet syndrome (DS) on the ketogenic diet (compared to 40 with Dravet not on the ketogenic diet). Although it helped reduce seizures, in both groups the developmental quotient scores worsened over time, and there was no difference between those on the diet and those not. The authors concluded, “The ketogenic diet may not promote neuropsychological development of DS patients obviously as previously reported.”
“Effect of modified Atkins diet in adults with drug-resistant focal epilepsy: A randomized clinical trial.” Dr. Kverneland and the team from Oslo University Hospital reported their findings of adults with focal epilepsy treated with the modified Atkins diet (24 adults) compared to a control group on a regular diet (32 adults). They did not find a significant difference in improvement between groups: 3 diet patients vs. 2 controls only had greater than 50% reduction in seizures. Moderate benefit was seen only when looking at those with greater than 25% seizure reduction and using an intent-to-treat analysis. Many possible reasons for the negative results were discussed including possible antiseizure drug level reductions by the diet, a short trial time (12 weeks), focal epilepsy (perhaps not as responsive to diet as generalized), and relatively small numbers of patients.
Just recently Ultragenyx announced the failure of their drug (UX007, also called triheptanoin) in a phase 3 trial of 44 children and adults with Glut1 deficiency syndrome. It did not help the movement disorder events compared to placebo. As a result of this trial, this company is no longer investigating it for Glut1 deficiency syndrome (but they still are for fatty acid oxidation defects).
What do these results mean?
So how should parents, people with epilepsy, neurologists, dietitians, and anyone interested in the ketogenic diet interpret these “negative” findings?

As I mentioned earlier, these findings are still very important! Negative results can reshape research and guide clinical practice. It is imperative that researchers publish these results, even when disappointing. Journals are being asked to strongly consider publication of these findings, even though they are perhaps not “newsworthy.” Pharmaceutical companies also are encouraged to publish these results.
Be careful about what you see on the internet and in the press. Catchy headlines about “failure” may not fully give the entire story and rarely mention some positive results. Read the entire study. (Or ask your keto team to!)
Remember, one negative study does not invalidate an entire body of literature on a subject. There is no need to be defensive: no treatment, the ketogenic diet included, is the answer for everyone and works in every clinical trial. Most of these negative studies will say that, and near the end of the paper state “worthy of additional study.”
Additionally, realize for every trial there are often several reasons that could explain why it didn’t show benefit. These are also mentioned typically in the discussion sections of published research. Situations such as small numbers of people in the study, particularly in highly refractory epilepsies being studied, participants stopping the trial early due to lack of success, etc., may lead to a poor result. They can be corrected for another trial.



Hi, @sarahlou – thinking of you today and wondering how the keto diet is going for your son? Did the dietician have some helpful advice for you in this process?

I also wanted to invite @patrassi @ahernandez @bonnieh218 @12271997 @venki @dawn_giacabazi @mst3000 into this conversation for any thoughts on following this dietary plan, as they may have looked into or tried the keto diet for themselves or a loved one with epilepsy.

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