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Ketogenic low carb diet useful for epilepsy, diabetes, weight loss, say studies

On a low-carb diet? Bring on the BBQ.
On a low-carb diet? Bring on the BBQ.
Creative Commons

For years, patients suffering from epilepsy were advised to follow a high fat, low carb ketogenic diet. Then anti-seizure drugs were developed, and physicians primarily chose prescriptions over diet plans. Now, however, a new study is indicating that the old-fashioned ketogenic diet can, for many, provide the benefits of those drugs without the medication side effects, reported the University Herald on Jan. 18. In addition, other studies have pointed to its benefits for conditions such as diabetes as well as weight loss.

Drugs that are used for epilepsy "work by strengthening brain inhibition. These pharmacological approaches can have their drawbacks, since patients often complain of unpleasant side effects," explained Derek Bowie, Canada Research Chair in Receptor Pharmacology at McGill and corresponding author of the study.

Metabolism and signalling in brain cells are two different, yet connected, processes. As a result, say the researchers, epilepsy patients can control their seizures by following the ketogenic diet in place of drugs.

"Since our study shows that brain cells have their own means to strengthen inhibition, our work points to potentially new ways in which to control a number of important neurological conditions including epilepsy," said Bowie.

And the low carb, high fat ketogenic diet is useful for other purposes as well, including promoting weight loss, reversing diabetes and preventing both dementia and heart disease, according to several recent studies.

For example, Alexandra Johnstone of the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health has been investigating high protein and low carbohydrate ketogenic diets such as the Atkins plan. She told First Post that the approach helps curb cravings while boosting weight loss.

"The high satiety effects of increased protein in the diet seems to be a contributing factor to the success of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets," she said.

Then there's Dr. David Perlmutter, author of "Grain Brain: The surprising truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar; your brain's silent killers."

And although he admits it seems extreme, he contends that the low carb ketogenic diet can protect your brain from dementia, reduce your weight and even help with problems ranging from depression to chronic headaches.

“It may seem draconian,” he told the Atlantic recently, “but the best recommendation I can make is to completely avoid grains.”

In addition, WebMD reports that a small study from Sweden suggests that a very low-carb diet may be one of the best ways to manage the disease and reduce the need for medication.

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