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Old January 28th, 2004, 04:53 PM
Ken Kubos
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Media Contact: Jessica Collins
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December 9, 2003


Along with helping some people shed unwanted pounds, the popular
low-carbohydrate, high-fat Atkins diet may also have a role in preventing
seizures in children with epilepsy, say researchers at the Johns Hopkins
Children's Center.

In a limited study of six patients, including three patients 12 years old
and younger on the Atkins regimen for at least four months, two children and
one young adult were seizure-free and were able to reduce use of
anti-convulsant medications. Findings of the study, scheduled for
presentation today at the American Epilepsy Society Meeting in Boston, also
showed that seizure control could be long-lasting on the diet, with the
three patients continuing to be seizure-free for as long as 20 months.

The researchers caution that because of the small number of study subjects,
their look at the relationship between the Atkins diet and seizure control
should not lead to its routine use in children with epilepsy, nor at this
point should the Atkins diet be used to replace the ketogenic diet -- the
rigorous high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet already proven to reduce or
eliminate difficult-to-control seizures in some patients.

The common elements in both diets are high fat and low carbohydrate foods
that alter the body's glucose chemistry. The ketogenic diet mimics some of
the effects of starvation, in which the body first uses up glucose and
glycogen before burning stored body fat. In the absence of glucose, the body
produces ketones, a chemical byproduct of fat that can inhibit seizures.
Children who remain seizure-free for two years on the ketogenic diet often
can resume normal eating and often their seizures don't return. The Atkins
diet, while slightly less restrictive than the ketogenic diet, also produces

"We just don't know yet how effective the Atkins diet is in reducing
seizures or if it comes close to the benefits of the ketogenic diet, but our
report raises new questions about the ideal level of calorie and protein
restriction imposed by the ketogenic diet," said the study's lead author,
Eric Kossoff, M.D., a pediatric neurologist at the Children's Center.

"By learning more about how the Atkins diet works to control seizures, we
should learn more about which patients may benefit best from either or both
of these diets," he added. "It may be, for example, that some of those who
can't tolerate the restrictiveness of the ketogenic diet could be helped
with Atkins."

In the short term, Kossoff says it's possible the Atkins diet could be used
in selected patients as a "trial run" for individuals considering the
ketogenic diet in the future. "Success on the Atkins diet may be a good
indication of patient compliance and efficacy of the ketogenic diet," he
adds. "Because the Atkins diet is easy to read and versions of it are
available in paperback at bookstores, families can easily follow this kind
of a strict, low-carbohydrate diet on their own for several weeksto
determine if this is something they can adhere to."

Also, because the Atkins diet was originally designed for weight loss,
Kossoff says it is possible patients following the diet to reduce seizures
may lose weight in the process. If that does occur, and a patient's weight
has reached unhealthy levels, the patient should be instructed to increase
calorie intake by eating more fats and proteins.

In the Johns Hopkins study, patients began with 10 grams of carbohydrates
per day, more than the typical amount provided on the ketogenic diet, but
fewer than used in the induction phase of the Atkins diet (20 grams/day).
Carbohydrate intake was gradually increased for some patients. Five out of
the six patients attained ketosis (the state of producing ketones) within
days of starting the Atkins diet and maintained moderate to large levels of
ketosis for periods of six weeks to 24 months.

Kossoff says that Hopkins researchers will further examine the role the
Atkins diet plays in the management of epilepsy in a larger clinical study
of 20 children with epilepsy, which began in September 2003 and already has
enrolled several patients.

Co-authors of the current study were Gregory L. Krauss, Jane R. McGrogan,
and John M. Freeman of the Department of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins

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