Keto Diet’s Impact on Gut Microbiome Linked to Epileptic Seizure Control

by Ella

The ketogenic diet, renowned for its weight-loss benefits, is emerging as a potential ally in the battle against epileptic seizures, particularly in children resistant to conventional anti-seizure medications. A recent study conducted at UCLA sheds light on the diet’s impact on the human gut microbiome, revealing potential insights into its efficacy in preventing seizures.

Published in the journal Cell Reports, the UCLA study explores the transformative changes induced by the ketogenic diet in the gut microbiome—a complex ecosystem of trillions of bacteria and microorganisms residing in the digestive tract. Lead author Gregory Lum, a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Elaine Hsiao’s laboratory, delves into understanding how these changes might confer protection against seizures, offering a pathway for novel therapeutic approaches.


While the ketogenic diet is not typically recommended as a primary anti-seizure option due to its strict requirements and potential side effects like nausea, constipation, and fatigue, its impact on the gut microbiome presents a compelling avenue for further investigation.


Lum’s study builds upon prior research from Hsiao’s lab, which demonstrated fewer seizures in mice fed a ketogenic diet compared to those on a standard diet in a mouse model mimicking epilepsy. Lum sought to deepen the understanding of the molecular mechanisms driving the diet’s alteration of the human gut microbiome.


In collaboration with UCLA’s Ketogenic Diet Therapy Program, Lum collected fecal samples from pediatric epilepsy patients before and after one month on the ketogenic diet. Transplanting these samples into mice allowed the researchers to observe the protective effects against seizures. Notably, mice that received transplants after a month on the diet displayed greater resistance to seizures than those receiving pre-diet transplants.


Crucially, the study identified alterations in key gut microbiome functions related to fatty acid oxidation and amino acid metabolism in pediatric patients on the ketogenic diet. These changes, preserved in the transplanted fecal matter, signify a potential avenue for developing microbiome-based therapies for epilepsy patients resistant to standard anti-seizure medications.

While acknowledging the need for further research, Lum emphasized the study’s promise in advancing our understanding of microbiome-based interventions for pediatric epilepsy patients who do not respond to conventional treatments. “Narrowing down the functions of the microbes that are beneficial toward seizure protection can potentially lead to new ways to enhance the efficacy of the ketogenic diet or to mimic its beneficial effects,” he noted.



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