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Study finds ketogenic diet is safe over long term

A recent study found that a ketogenic diet of high fat foods and few cardohydrates is an effective diet that has no long term effects on seizure patients.

Published in the journal Epilepsia, a group of researchers from John-Hopkins University Children's Center, treated 101 patients ages 2 to 26 years with the ketogenic diet for a minimum of 16 months and for up to eight years at Hopkins Children's between 1993 and 2008. At the time of the follow-up, patients were off the diet anywhere between eight months and 14 years. Nearly 80 percent of the patients remained either seizure-free or had their seizures reduced by half. Most patients' seizures did not worsen even years after stopping the diet.

"Despite its temporary side effects, we have always suspected that the ketogenic diet is relatively safe long term, and we now have proof," says senior investigator Dr. Eric Kossoff, a pediatric neurologist and director of the ketogenic diet program at Hopkins Children's. "Our study should help put to rest some of the nagging doubts about the long-term safety of the ketogenic diet," he adds.

The ketogenic diet is believed to trigger biochemical changes that eliminate seizure-causing short circuits in the brain's signaling system. Used as first-line therapy for infantile spasms and in children whose seizures cannot be controlled with drugs, the diet is highly effective but complicated and sometimes difficult to maintain. It can temporarily raise cholesterol, impair growth and, in rare cases, lead to kidney stones, among other side effects.

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