Entries in Low-Carb (2)


Epilepsy: ‘Miracle Diet’ Prevents Seizures; Scientists May Know Why

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While neurologists have known that a high-fat and very low-carb diet, known as a ketogenic diet, reduces seizures in epileptic patients who are resistant to medical therapy, the “why” to it all has always been a mystery.

But today, some scientists say they may have found the answer. Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School said seizures might be linked to a protein that changes metabolism in the brain, which is why patients respond so well to the ketogenic diet.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures, or convulsions, over time. The seizures represent episodes of disturbed brain activity and cause changes in attention and behavior, according to the National Institutes of Health. The condition affects about 3 million Americans and 50 million people worldwide, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

The ketogenic diet mimics aspects of starvation by forcing the body to burn fats instead of carbohydrates. The diet produces ketones in the body, organic compounds that form when the body uses fat, instead of glucose, as a source of energy. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood reduces the frequency of epileptic seizures.

The study, published in the journal Neuron and conducted in genetically-altered mice, found that the effect of the ketogenic diet on epilepsy can be mimicked using a much more specific and non-dietary approach by manipulating a particular protein in mice, said Gary Yellen, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the study.

“This points toward potential new ways of treating epilepsy in patients for whom current drugs are not effective,” said Yellen.

Yellen said that while the connection between epilepsy and diet has remained unclear for nearly 100 years, he has seen children’s lives change drastically after changes in their food intake. In the past, some patients have also seen improvement when they cut nearly all sugar from their diets.

Experimenting in mice, the researchers found they could mimic the effects of the diet by altering a specific protein, known as BAD. Seizures decreased in the mice.

While the research must first be replicated in humans, Yellen said, in the long run, scientists should be able to target this pathway pharmacologically.

“Because the ketogenic diet can be so broadly effective against many types of epilepsy that are not well-treated by existing medications, tapping into its mechanism may be valuable for treating many epilepsy patients,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gluten-Free: The Low-Carb of This Decade?

Peter Dazeley/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- "Gluten-free" is fast becoming the "low-carb" diet trend of the 21st century, although only 10 percent of the people buying its foods suffer from the celiac disease, wheat allergy or "gluten sensitivity" that make gluten avoidance a medical-must.

The burgeoning gluten-free marketplace has been a boon to men and women whose good health depends upon keeping gluten out of their gullets.

Today, gluten-free staples, frozen meals and snacks fill aisles of supermarkets that years ago might have stocked only a paltry collection of cardboard-y rice crackers and wheat-free cookies.

Last year, Americans spent $2.64 billion on foods and beverages without gluten, up from $210 million in 2001, according to Packaged Facts, a Rockville, Md.-based market research firm. The number of food and beverage packages with gluten-free package claims or tags rose from fewer than 1,000 at the end of 2006 to 2,600 by 2010.

The target market for sufferers of three types of gluten-related disorders is significant. An estimated 3 million Americans have celiac disease, a life-threatening immune disorder triggered by the consumption of a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Celiac disease is considered genetic, but can strike at any time of life when genetic and environmental influences intersect. Only about 200,000 Americans have been diagnosed. Another 300,000 to 400,000 Americans have wheat allergies, which could kill them if they inadvertently ingested wheat products that swell their airways shut.

The biggest of these potential pools lies with those plagued by an emerging, but not fully delineated "gluten sensitivity" which Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, in a study published in March, estimated could be as many as 20 million people.

Even though gluten-free diets initially were an accommodation to celiac disease and wheat allergies, the marketplace has changed. Today, 90 percent of people whose eschew gluten do so "just as a food fad, or as a weight reduction thing," said Dr. Peter H.R. Green, director of Columbia University's Celiac Disease Center in New York. "Only 10 percent are doing it because they think it's helping their condition."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio