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Fatty foods could help treat epilepsy
Published Tuesday, June 19, 2012 2:56PM CST
Last Updated Thursday, June 21, 2012 11:29AM CST
Most people have heard about the dangers of high-fat foods. Bookstores overflow with shelves of books claiming that high-fat foods can spell disaster for your heart and overall health.
But a specialized diet full of fatty foods is making a major difference for children battling epilepsy, including Brock Kolibab, a four-year-old boy in Saskatoon.
Brock has a severe form of epilepsy and was suffering from up to 200 seizures a day. Those seizures quickly took their toll on Brock’s family, especially his parents, Shantel and Curtis.
“He was zoning in and out all day. He was potty trained, but went back to wearing diapers,” says Shantel.
“It was to the point where we were fearing he was going to have some severe mental problems as a result of this and who knows what the extent of this could have been,” says Curtis.
When medication alone wasn't curbing Brock's seizures, he was put on the ketogenic diet. It’s high in fat and low in carbohydrate, with what's considered adequate protein. Meals are made with a lot of rich butters, oils, whipping cream, and mayonnaise and must be carefully calculated and weighed out.
Although the exact mechanisms of the ketogenic diet aren't known, it's believed the diet tricks the body into thinking it’s starving, forcing it to burn fat rather than carbohydrates. That produces ketones in the body, which have been shown to reduce seizure activity.
Dr. Richard Hunstman, a pediatric neurologist, has seen the results. “About 60 per cent of children we put on this diet have a very significant reduction in the number of seizures and quite a large portion become completely seizure free."
The length of time children are on the diet depends on the child. Some are on it for just two years, while other children stay on the diet for longer. The ultimate goal is to gradually wean the children off the diet and get them eating regularly again.
And there are side effects of the diet. While it does have a high success rate for many, not all children respond. It’s also labour-intensive for parents, who have to calculate and pre-plan each meal.
Shantel and Curtis admit the diet is a lot of work, but they say that for their family, it’s been worth the effort. Since December, Brock has been seizure-free and has returned to being a regular kid again.
“It's so worth it,” says Shantel. “The benefits, to have our little boy back and doing so well, it's worth its weight in gold."