Families kept in dark over keto diet's power to cut seizures in epileptic kids ... trends now
Up to 17,000 children in the UK with severe epilepsy are being denied a potentially life-changing treatment due to a lack of NHS funding, the MoS can reveal.
Experts have called on the health service to pump more cash into wider use of the ketogenic diet – a high fat, low carbohydrate regime that has been shown to halve seizure rates in almost 40 per cent of children who do not get better on traditional epilepsy drugs.
The diet involves consuming lots of fatty foods – cheese, meat, eggs, nuts and oils – along with plenty of green vegetables but barely any pasta, rice, potatoes or bread. Up to one in ten who switch to the diet are seizure-free, studies show, with some able to quit taking medication altogether.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which vets the effectiveness of treatments offered on the NHS, says doctors should consider the ketogenic diet when children with epilepsy fail to respond to at least two prescription medicines, but it does not recommend it is offered routinely due to concerns that it causes stomach upsets for some.
'Some 60,000 children in the UK have epilepsy and around 18,000 of those have drug-resistant forms,' said Sara Garland, founder of epilepsy charity The Daisy Garland. 'Just 900 are on a ketogenic diet – thousands more could benefit.'
REVELATION: Clara Hayhurst has suffered fewer epileptic seizures since beginning the keto diet with the help of her mum, Amanda
Known among slimmers as the 'keto' diet, it can help shed weight fast, but its use as a therapy for epilepsy dates back 100 years, until modern anti-epileptic drugs came into use in the 1960s and 1970s.
It's thought that the low levels of sugar and high levels of fat alter the 'excitability' of the brain, reducing its tendency to develop seizures. There are suggestions it could combat psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar disorder.
But children on the diet for epilepsy need to be closely monitored to make sure they get the right amount of calories and nutrients so their growth is not affected. Eating plans have to be carefully worked out and vitamin supplements are often needed.
Ms Garland said: 'Our charity has provided the funding to set up these NHS clinics. When the