The “gut microbiome” (also known as, “gut microbiota” or “gut flora”) is the name given to the ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms that live in our digestive system. The gut microbiome has been referred to as our “second brain” and it’s estimated these microbial genes outnumber our “native” genes by more than 100 to 1.
The role the gut microbiome plays in our health and wellbeing is the subject of increasing interest in the scientific community.
In a recent study, six researchers from the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology at the University of California in Los Angeles California looked at the interplay of the ketogenic diet and the gut microbiome in treating epileptic seizures.
How the Study Was Done
The researchers used mice for this study. Mice are often used for this type of research because of their genetic and biological similarities to humans. Also, researchers can strictly control the diet and behavior of mice, which allows them to observe results for the specific variables they are studying.
Here’s how this study was structured:
- The mice were divided into three groups — Groups A, B and C.
- Group A was given antibiotics to eliminate their gut microbiome.
- Group B was not treated with antibiotics, which allowed their gut microbiome to remain intact.
- Groups A and B were placed on a traditional ketogenic diet (low carbohydrate, high fat and moderate protein).
- Group C was not given antibiotics and consumed a non-ketogenic diet of standard mouse chow.
- During the study, gut microbiome matter was transplanted from Group B into the digestive tracts of the mice in Group C.
- Seizures were electrically stimulated in each group.
What the Study Found
Here’s what the researchers found:
- The mice in Group A (on keto with gut microbiome eliminated) did not experience protection against seizures.
- The mice in Group B (on keto with gut microbiome intact) did experience protection from seizures.
- The mice in Group C (not on keto) did not initially experience protection from seizures, however, after they received the transplant of gut microbiome material from mice in Group B, they did experience seizure protection.
Here’s how the researchers summarized their findings:
- Changes in the gut microbiota are required for the anti-seizure effects of the KD (ketogenic diet).
- Specific KD-associated bacteria mediate and confer the anti-seizure effects of the KD.
For decades, the ketogenic diet has been an effective treatment option for many who suffer from epileptic seizures. However, the mechanisms by which keto offers relief have not been determined.
This study is the first to look at how the diet’s effects on the gut microbiome may play an important role in reducing epileptic seizures.
While studies in mice don’t always translate to the same results in humans, these results offer exciting clues that will certainly be explored further in future studies.
You can find out more about the study here.