I would have loved to have had more time to dedicate to this research but unfortunately time is a precious and expensive commodity of which I can’t afford right this moment 🙂 ….
A new study unravels a link between a protein that can modify cellular metabolism in the brain and seizure susceptibility. The research, published by Cell Press in the 24th May 2012 issue of the journal Neuron, may lead to the development of new treatments for epilepsy.
So what’s Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a disorder characterised by seizures, unpredictable and abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain.
What causes Epilepsy?
Seizures are caused by a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain. This means there is a temporary disruption in the way that messages are passed between brain cells.
The brain is responsible for all the body’s functions, so what happens during a seizure will depend on exactly where in the brain the seizure begins, and how widely and quickly it spreads. For this reason there are lots of different types of seizures.
The most common type of seizure is known as a ‘tonic-clonic’ seizure. There are other types too though including, in children, ‘absence’ seizures. I am not an expert by any chance…
Sometimes there is a clear reason for epilepsy developing. This can include a severe blow to the head, an infection of the brain such as meningitis, or brain damage due to lack of oxygen during a difficult birth. But for most people with the condition, there isn’t a clear cause.
What are the effects of a seizure?
Having a seizure doesn’t itself cause any harm. It won’t cause any sort of brain damage or internal damage.
However, a person might injure themselves during a tonic-clonic seizure, for example by biting their tongue or the inside of their cheek by accident, or because of things they might bump into or hurt themselves on in their immediate environment.
How is epilepsy treated?
Now it comes the tricky part…. I am sure there are plenty of modern anti-epileptic medication can be very effective. I heard it is hard to find the right type, or combination of medication, that most benefits the person.
By reading up new researches it seems there are three effective diets one can follow while trying to finding the best suitable:
- Ketogenic Diet
- Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet
- Modified Atkins Diet
- Low GI (glycaemic index) treatment
Ketogenic Diet (KD)
This diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate, controlled protein diet that has been used since the 1920s for the treatment of epilepsy. The word ‘ketogenic’ means that chemicals, called ketones, are made in the body (keto = ketone, genic = producing).
The ketogenic diet is an established treatment option to control epilepsy.
Usually the body uses glucose (a form of sugar) from carbohydrates (found in foods like sugar, bread or pasta) for its energy source. Ketones are made when the body uses fat for energy (this is called ‘ketosis’).
This type of diet, forces neurons to switch from their customary fuel of glucose to a type of fat by product called a ketone body. The potent effect of increased ketone metabolism on human epilepsy points to a link between fuel utilisation and neuronal excitability.
Researchers discovered that modifications to BAD (BCL-2-associated Agonist of Cell Death), that reduced glucose metabolism and increased ketone body metabolism in the brain we were associated with a decrease in seizure susceptibility. They went on to show that this reduction in seizure susceptibility was due to increased activity of an ion channel that dampens neuronal excitability.
Taken together, the research’ findings identify BAD as a regulator of fuel metabolism in the brain and implicate this protein in the regulation of seizures. BAD’s capacity to modulate energy metabolism in the brain, independent of dietary manipulation, makes it an attractive candidate for metabolic control of seizures. Furthermore the small molecules modelled after BAD variants may help uncover new therapeutic targets to treat epileptic disorders.
For menu examples click here.
Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Diet
The medium-chain triglyceride diet is a form of dietary therapy for epilepsy. Unlike the classic ketogenic diet, it includes a supplement called MCT oil, which contains fatty acids called medium-chain triglycerides. These fatty acids are more “ketogenic” than the fatty acids usually found in butter and oil. This means that children taking the MCT diet can eat a wider range of food, including more carbohydrate, and still be in a state of ketosis.
Compared with the classic ketogenic diet, the MCT diet allows more calories, more carbohydrate, larger portion sizes, more fruits and vegetables, and a wider range of food. For these reasons, it can be useful for picky eaters or children with large appetites. The diet is more balanced, so children need fewer vitamin and mineral supplements. Children taking the MCT diet are also less likely to have side effects such as kidney stones, low blood sugar, constipation, low bone density, and poor growth. Their ratio of “good” HDL cholesterol to “bad” LDL cholesterol tends to be better than with the ketogenic diet.
Modified Atkins Diet (MAD)
The modified Atkins diet is a less restrictive, higher protein and carbohydrate, outpatient-initiated dietary therapy for epilepsy in both children and adults who would otherwise use the ketogenic diet.
This diet consists of:
- Lots of high fat foods such as bacon, eggs, mayonnaise, butter, hamburger, heavy whipping cream, and oils are encouraged.
- Certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, avocados, and cheeses are used.
- Unlike the ketogenic diet, however, patients eat more foods and can cheat with some breads and cake products, as long as the total carbohydrates each day remain below the set amount prescribed by the neurologist.
You can read more about the difference between KD and MAD here.
For menu examples click here.
Low GI (glycaemic index) treatment
The LGIT for epilepsy was developed in 2002 as an alternative to the ketogenic diet (KD) for treatment of intractable epilepsy. The LGIT monitors not only the total amount of carbohydrates consumed daily, but focuses on carbohydrates that have a low Glycemic Index.
You can read more about the difference between KD and LGI Treatment click here.
For more on this diet click here.
More info on all above diets I found here but I am sure you can find more information in other articles.
Dietary Factors That May Worsen Seizures
Although this review has focused on dietary manipulations that may alleviate seizures, it must be acknowledged that some diets or dietary constituents may worsen seizure control. Such as following:
- Glutamate, the primary excitatory neurotransmitter, is clearly epileptogenic; excess intake of glutamate (in particular, monosodium glutamate) has been implicated in seizure exacerbation.
- Stimulants, such as caffeine, also have been reported to worsen seizures.
- Alcohol ingestion lowers seizure threshold, in both the short and long term.
- Some dietary practices include particular foods that can cause seizures (e.g. betel nuts).
- A wide variety of herbal remedies can exacerbate epilepsy, even some that are touted to suppress seizures
Keep healthy xx