Atkins diet for epilepsy

Alan R. Gaby

Six patients (aged 7-52 years) with focal or multifocal epilepsy who had failed to respond to therapy with 2 to 18 anticonvulsant medications (median, 6.5) were started on the Atkins diet. Five patients maintained moderate-to-large ketosis for periods of 6 weeks to 24 months. Three patients had a significant reduction in seizure activity during that time and were able to reduce their anticonvulsant medications. Complete elimination of seizures occurred in a 7-year-old female and a 10-year-old male. An 18-year-old female had a 90% reduction in seizures. A 12-year-old female had a 20% reduction in seizures. A 42-year-old male and a 52-year-old male had no improvement. These results suggest that the Atkins diet may be beneficial for patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy, particularly younger patients.

Comment: Like the ketogenic diet, which has been found to be of great benefit for some people with epilepsy, the Atkins diet can induce a ketotic state. Compared with the very restrictive ketogenic diet, however, the Atkins diet has fewer protein and calorie restrictions and has been used with apparent safety by millions of people for weight reduction. There is some concern that long-term use of the Atkins diet can promote the development of osteoporosis, kidney stones and other problems. Presumably, some of these potential adverse effects can be prevented by appropriate supplementation with vitamins and minerals, as recommended by Dr. Atkins in his writings.

Kossoff EH, et al. Efficacy of the Atkins diet as therapy for intractable epilepsy. Neurology 2003;61:1789-1791.

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