Ketogenic Seizures

The standard ketogenic diet was developed in the early 20th century to help treat the symptoms of epilepsy. Even though new anticonvulsant drugs have since been developed which are effective for the majority of epileptics, there are approximately 20% to 30% of individuals who do not respond to these drugs and for which the keto diet is still a treatment option.

In addition to epilepsy, there are other conditions that may involve seizure disorders, including mitochondrial encephalomyopathy (ME) and glycolytic enzymopathy (GE). As with epilepsy, there is a group of patients with these conditions who do not respond to drug therapy.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pittsburgh, PA have just published a study using a fruit fly model which shows that a ketogenic diet may be effective for treating seizures associated with these diseases.

How the Study Was Done

The group of ten researchers had previously studied the effects of a ketogenic diet on seizures disorders using a “Drosophila model.” The Drosophila model uses fruit flies (according to ScienceMag) “for the study of animal development and behavior, neurobiology, and human genetic diseases and conditions,” because “approximately 60% of a group of readily identified genes that are mutated, amplified, or deleted in a diverse set of human diseases have a counterpart in Drosophila. Studying these genes in Drosophila lets scientists bypass some of the ethical issues of biomedical research involving human subjects.”

These researchers had previously found a ketogenic diet was effective for the treatment of seizures in epilepsy, ME and GE but they now decided to investigate further to determine if that effectiveness was because of the decrease in glycolysis (using glucose for energy) or the increase in ketone body production.

What the Study Found

They found “that reduction of glycolysis does not confer seizure protection, but that dietary supplementation with ketone bodies or the anaplerotic lipid triheptanoin, which directly replenishes the citric acid cycle, can mimic the success of the ketogenic diet even in the presence of standard carbohydrate levels.”

They further say “our data reveal that multiple seizure models, in addition to ATP61, are treatable with the ketogenic diet.”


In this research using fruit flies, the scientists found that a ketogenic diet was an effective treatment for multiple seizure disorders. We’ve known for a long time that the diet was helpful for many epileptics, but this study also looked at two other disorders—ME and GE—and a ketogenic proved helpful in those as well.

The researchers went one step further to attempt to determine if it was the removal of glycolysis or the addition of ketone bodies that had the positive effects.

Their research showed that it was the addition of ketones that caused the improvement “even in the presence of standard carbohydrate levels.”

Learn More

You can find more information about this study here.

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