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Ketogenic LCHF diets help epilepsy and obesity: Weight loss safety debate

A new study says ketogenic diets can help with epilepsy.
A new study says ketogenic diets can help with epilepsy.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For decades, low carb high fat (LCHF) ketogenic diets have been used to treat epilepsy in children as well as boost weight loss for dieters. Now a new study shows the potential of using ketogenic diets to control seizures in adults, reported Epilepsy Research UK.

When children follow a ketogenic diet, 40 percent of them experience a reduction in seizure frequency of 50 percent or more. In addition, they tend to exhibit improvements in their mood and alertness.

To determine if adults might experience similar benefits, three non-profit organizations (Matthew’s Friends, Epilepsy Society and Young Epilepsy) teamed up with scientists in London and the Netherlands to conduct a study.The scientists discovered that the adults also had fewer seizures when they complied with the guidelines of a ketogenic diet. They also were more alert and had better concentration.

High fat low carb ketogenic diets also have been proven helpful for conditions ranging from some forms of cancer to dementia. Jack Osbourne uses a Paleo high fat low carb diet to manage his multiple sclerosis. But are such diets the ideal for weight loss?

Some experts argue that by eliminating grains, you risk your health. "Your brain and muscles run primarily on glucose, and carbs break down into glucose, so the only way to get stronger both mentally and physically is to consume carbohydrates," claimed registered dietitian Kelly Strogen in an Aug. 19 interview with Philly.com.

Ketogenic diets typically reduce carbohydrates to 20 to 50 grams per day. "Scientific studies show that the brain needs 130 grams of carbohydrates a day to function properly," argued Theresa Shank, RD, LDN of Einstein Healthcare Network, against the plan.

But they're wrong, responded Jimmy Moore, author of "Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet." He points out that quality counts over quantity when it comes to carbohydrates.

In a high fat low carb ketogenic diet, the only carbohydrates removed are "the cruddy ones like sugar, starch and grains–especially the highly-refined versions of all of these. It’s not a “no-carb” diet as we still enjoy non-starchy and green leafy vegetables, berries, and other such real food-based carbs," he emphasizes.

In an exclusive interview on Aug. 19, Atkins Nutritional Approach chief nutritionist Linda O’Byrne concurred with Jimmy. "Avoiding sugar and refined carbs leaves a huge choice of vegetables, protein (such as salmon, beef and chicken), as well as healthy fats like olives, avocados, eggs and oils such as olive and coconut," she said.

As for the facts on the ideal amount of carbohydrates, fat and protein to achieve induction (phase one on the Atkins plan, which jump-starts weight loss): "Atkins is low carb, high fat and moderate protein, usually around 115g to 175g of protein-rich foods, such as chicken, fish, red meat or tofu, per meal," she said.

"During the Induction phase, the carb recommendation would be up to 20g per day, with 12-15g coming from vegetables, which adds up to more than the regular five a day," said Linda. She estimates that the ratio is five percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein and 70 percent healthy fats. Those percentages are designed to satisfy hunger and boost fat-burning.

However, the precise amount of each food type varies, based on fat adaptation and carb tolerance. "This really depends on the individual and can be adjusted while still remaining in ketosis. Typically, most people will go into ketosis with a daily carb intake of around 20g," added Linda.