An article in the current issue (May 2007) of Nature Medicine discusses the mechanism underlying the well-known anti-seizure effect of the ketogenic diet.
I found a few statements in this paper that I thought readers of this blog would find amusing.
The article starts out:
Doctors have for nearly a century prescribed a low-carbohydrate diet to help prevent seizures in people with epilepsy, but they had no idea why it works—until now.
Harvard University researchers in April reported that the strict diet—dubbed the ketogenic diet because it induces a state of ketosis, in which the body is forced to use fat for energy—may enhance the function of electrical switches in an area of the brain that controls seizures (J. Neurosci. 27, 3618–3625; 2007). With further testing, the mechanism could reveal potential drug targets, experts say.
Yep, that’s science for you. We’ve got a perfectly safe and acceptable solution to the problem in the form of the ketogenic diet, so let’s try to find a drug that will do the same thing. And cost a zillion dollars. And cause side effects. And… But, friends and neighbors, that’s how science – funded by Big Pharma – works these days.
The article continues:
The diet enhances the protective role of energy-, or ATP-, dependent potassium channels in the brain, which control the electrical firing of neurons that release the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in a region of the brain called substantia nigra pars reticulata, the researchers found. Those neurons are known to be associated with seizure control, says lead investigator Gary Yellen, professor of neurobiology at Harvard.
“The diet affects multiple metabolic features,” notes Philip Schwartzkroin, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Davis. “Some are related to antiepileptic effects of the diet and some are irrelevant.”
Schwartzkroin says there are many other cells in the brain that have energy-sensitive potassium channels that might be affected by the diet. “How that might be integrated is not even discussed,” he says.
So, if we’ve got such a good tool for managing brain energetics with the ketogenic diet, tell me again why we need drugs?
Developing a drug that could replace the diet is key because the eating regimen is arduous. The diet consists entirely of fats and protein in portions that are precisely weighed and timed, and dieters must be monitored by a doctor. Cheating on the diet—such as eating a candy bar—can bring on a seizure in minutes.
The eating regimen is arduous?!?!?! Ah, tell that to the many people who have been on low-carb diets for years and feel better than they’ve ever felt. I sometimes wish that I would have a seizure within moments of cheating on my low-carb diet. It would certainly go a long way in preventing my cheating.
And, not only does the ketogenic diet work for epilepsy, but other disorders as well.
The diet is so complex, in fact, that doctors have seen benefits in people with other neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
How does it work for Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons and a multitude of other disorders? You can find out this coming September when our partner’s book comes out. Dr. Larry McCleary, a noted neurosurgeon, has written a terrific book about all this that explains how a low-carb diet works to improve brain performance. By reading this book, you will be far ahead of most researchers working in the field in terms of your understanding of brain energetics and how a ketogenic diet works to help the brain function better cognitively while warding off Alzheimer’s and a host of other brain disorders.