Increase in fat intake may reduce infant seizures

June 1, 2010

A diet that is high in fat may reduce infantile spasms significantly in young children, according to new research.

A high-fat diet may markedly reduce infantile spasms in young children, new research published in the April 30 online issue of Epilepsia shows.

Because antiseizure medications have been shown to be relatively ineffective in treating infantile spasms, more focus is on the ketogenic diet, which consists primarily of high-fat foods and minimal proteins and carbohydrates. The diet leads to biochemical changes, including reduction of malfunctions in the brain's signaling system, research shows.

About two-thirds of infants in this study had half as many seizures after 6 months on the diet, researchers reported. They evaluated 104 children (mean age, 1.2 years) who were on the diet from February 1996 to May 2009. Investigators used a 3:1 or 3.5:1 ratio for grams of fat to grams of combined carbohydrate and protein. Median calories consumed were 700 kcal per day. Previous treatment for study participants had been a mean of 3.6 anticonvulsants.

About 37% of infants were spasm-free for at least 6 months during treatment; 79% of these children did not experience relapse in 2 years. Other diet benefits included neurologic development improvements (62%), EEG improvements (35%), and reduction of seizure medication use (29%). Adverse events, reported by 33% of children, included constipation, gastroesophageal reflux, diarrhea, behavioral problems, hematuria, kidney stones, acidosis, hair thinning, hypercalcemia, dry skin, and pica.