UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Research reveals how specific diet works to help epilepsy

30 November 2015

Researchers have found out how a specific diet works to help treat patients with uncontrolled epilepsy.

A team from UCL Institute of Neurology and Royal Holloway University of London revealed in preliminary tests how decanoic acid, a fatty acid found in foods assigned to ketogenic diets, acts to block seizures in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy.  

Ketogenic diets are characterised by their high fat, low carbohydrate and controlled protein content. They have been acknowledged as a useful means of controlling the symptoms of epilepsy for many years, although the mechanism by which the diet has antiepileptic effects is unknown.

Now researchers have pinpointed decanoic acid as the fatty acid that blocks a key neurotransmitter receptor involved in brain activity. This study, published in Brain, looked specifically at the medium-chain triglyceride diet, a form of ketogenic diet that includes a supplement called MCT oil, which offers high fatty acid content.

A clinical trial will begin in 2016 at UCLH and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Epilepsy affects over 50 million people worldwide and approximately a third of people diagnosed with epilepsy do not have seizures adequately controlled by current treatments.