A new study entitled “Treatment Strategies for Dravet Syndrome”1 published in the journal, CNS Drugs2, suggests that a ketogenic diet might offer hope to those who suffer from Dravet Syndrome. The debilitating disease is caused by a mutation in the SCN1A gene, and patients experience a variety of symptoms ranging from severe seizures to delayed or halted development, gait impairments, behavior issues, loss of appetite, sleep issues, and beyond. Patients generally show a progressive increase in symptom severity over time and, as such, treatment goals tend to vary by age.
A Therapeutic Alternative to Antiepileptic Drugs
Traditionally, Dravet Syndrome is managed through a regimen of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). This study, however, suggests that traditional first-line treatments and therapies not only have limited effectiveness but can also serve to aggravate symptoms. For example, traditional medicines include carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, phenytoin, and lamotrigine often exacerbate seizures and do more harm than good over time.
The study presented a host of additional medications and alternative therapies, all of whose efficacy is debatable over time, but a ketogenic diet offers a therapeutic approach instead. The low-carb, high-fat diet has long been used as a treatment of epilepsy. Its direct effect on the central nervous system using ketone bodies, which are an alternative source of energy to glucose, may reduce neuronal excitation and, in time, reduce both the severity and frequency of seizures.
Keto’s Effectiveness is Mirrored in Several Other Case Studies
Nearly 10 years ago, a clinical study was conducted that involved 52 children with Dravet Syndrome3 in which 20 were placed on a year-long ketogenic diet. Of the 13 children who remained on the diet after one year, two remained free of seizures, and 11 showed more than a 50% decrease in the frequency of their seizures. Six of those patients later stopped the ketogenic diet, and only one remained seizure-free.
So, how do researchers believe the ketogenic diet works regarding Dravet Syndrome? Scientists say that the exact mechanism by which it aids in the reduction of seizures is not yet fully understood; however, they harbor several theories regarding the protective effects of ketone bodies in the brain. And, as they say, the numbers do speak volumes.
The Goal is Careful Management & a Proper Protocol
While the obvious goal for many patients and their families is to be AED and medication-free, scientists and doctors believe it begins with careful management and balance. The study’s investigators say, “Accurate and early diagnosis leads to an opportunity to provide optimal treatment and potentially improve developmental outcome in this unique population.” Furthermore, they conclude that, because first-line treatments only show modest efficacy, additional therapies might be the key to overall management and supplementation.
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