Can food serve as medicine for epilepsy patients?

UW Health uses Ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy

Can food serve as medicine for epilepsy patients?

MADISON, Wis. - The menu contains everything you would expect to see on a Thanksgiving table, but for individuals with epilepsy, there is something extra to be thankful for.

The ingredients used to make Thanksgiving dinner in the Learning Kitchen at UW Health at the American Center can significantly reduce seizures.

UW Health offers the Ketogenic diet as an alternative for patients whose seizures are inadequately controlled by medications.

"The Keto diet is a very high fat, low carbohydrate diet that has been shown to reduce seizures," said Dr. Elizabeth Felton, a professor of neurology who specializes in treating epilepsy.

The Keto diet has been used for more than 100 years to treat epilepsy, but until recently, it was not widely used.

"It was used in the 1920's pretty commonly for epilepsy, but then as new medications came along, and it is definitely easier to take a pill than it is to make a radical change to your diet, and so interest in the diet went by the wayside," Felton said.

UW Health is now recommending the Keto diet to epilepsy patients whose seizures are not controlled well by medications.

"It does work. It is not perfect. It is not a cure-all. The number I usually tell my patients is about 50 percent of patients have a 50 percent or greater seizure reduction, and about 10 percent of patients are seizure-free," Felton said.

To help teach patients and their families how to cook with the Keto diet, classes are being taught in the Learning Kitchen at the new UW Health at the American Center.

With Thanksgiving a week away, the patients and their families are learning how to make a meal that is both flavorful and healthy.

"The meal that we're preparing today is going to be the big meal of our patient's Thanksgiving day, and it is 10.1 grams of carbohydrates," said Sarah Jadin, a clinical nutritionist at UW Health.

The Thanksgiving meal the patients are learning to cook is significantly lower in carbs than a traditional holiday dinner.

"You could easily be in the hundreds of grams of carbs," Jadin said.

While the Keto diet being taught at UW Health is low in carbs, it is not low in taste and flavor.

"Fat is delicious, carbs are delicious. We run into trouble when we do them both. Today, we're doing just a high-fat Thanksgiving meal, and we're focusing on those rich savory flavors," Jadin said.

While the Keto diet does deliver good tasting food, the results can be even better.

"It is a huge deal. A lot of patients feel that this type of dietary therapy has really changed their life," Felton said.

Latest Health News

Photo Galleries

E-News Registration

This Week's Circulars