(NaturalNews) Since ancient times, fasting has consistently been regarded as an important part of treating various diseases, including epilepsy. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have investigated the effects of fasting in conjunction with the ketogenic diet (high fat, low carbohydrate intake), after early evidence showed that water fasting and carbohydrate abstinence reduced the frequency of epileptic seizures for more than half the patients exposed to a fasting-based therapy.
How does the ketogenic diet work?
Through low carbohydrate intake, the ketogenic diet tricks the brain into thinking that it is going to starve so that it begins to burn fats as its primary fuel source. When carbohydrates are not available for conversion into glucose, the liver starts breaking down fats into fatty acids and a group of compounds known as ketone bodies. These ketone bodies are then transported to the heart and brain, to be used as an energy source instead of glucose. It is the elevated blood ketone levels that then trigger slight biochemical changes in the brain. Trials and observations show that the ketogenic diet helps about half of the patients who try it, while around 20 percent of patients experience vast improvements.
Because of its special requirements and unique benefits, the ketogenic diet is not balanced, and includes only a few fruits and vegetables, which are typically fat-rich. However, a ketogenic menu should not be unhealthy. Nut butters, coconut oil, avocados, olives, eggs, olive oil, whole milk, cottage cheese and Omega-3 rich cold water fat fish (like salmon and mackerel) are excellent sources of fat, plenty of which are monounsaturated heart and brain protective fats that boost HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels.
Fasting confirmed as potential stand-alone therapy
Yet another Johns Hopkins study brings further evidence on the benefits of the ketogenic diet, in tandem with periodic fasting. The study also manages to prove that the two approaches are complementary, and should be used together for best results. Adam Hartman, a pediatric neurologist at Johns Hopkins University, explained that the current body of evidence "suggests that fasting does not merely intensify the therapeutic effects of the ketogenic diet but may actually represent an entirely new way to change the metabolism of children with epilepsy."
In the current study, the scientists tested children for whom the ketogenic diet alone achieved only moderate results. At the end of the trial, four of the six children tested reported significantly fewer seizures, proving that fasting could become a stand-alone treatment for children suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy. "We suspect that fasting affects nerve cells in a completely different manner from the ketogenic diet," explained Dr. Hartman, after an earlier study showed that the two treatment methods independently protect against two entirely different kinds of seizures. Hartman plans to focus his future studies on determining the reasons for these differences, and possibly develop new diet-based epilepsy treatments.
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