Wednesday, December 1, 2010

THIS IS WHY YOU'RE FAT...AND SEIZURE-FREE


(Photo: Stephen Lewis for the New York Times)

For most of us, a high-fat diet might seem like an ill-advised, surrealist dream come true, but for some, it's one of the only means to any sense of normalcy. Fred Vogelstein's nine year old son Sam falls into the latter group: an extreme diet of fats is one of few ways his pediatric epilepsy can be controlled. Vogelstein's written a fascinating glimpse into the life of his nine year old son a few weeks ago for the New York Times Magazine.

The diet, known as a "keto diet," is gaining wide acceptance in the medical community as a viable way to treat otherwise untreatable pediatric epilepsy. It's primarily a diet emphatic on fats, akin to the Atkins Diet that was popular a few years back, where the body is basically tricked to burn fats instead of carbs for fuel. The process, "ketosis," somehow has an anti-epileptic effect, though it's not entirely clear why. The keto diet takes this to an extreme, with "twice the fat content of a McDonald's Happy Meal and about 25% more than the most fat-laden phase of the Atkins Diet."

Vogelstein describes the meals his son eats in a typical day and week:
His breakfast eggs are mixed with heavy cream and served with bacon. A typical lunch is full-fat Greek yogurt mixed with coconut oil. Dinner is hot dogs, bacon, macadamia nuts and cheese. We figure that in an average week, Sam consumes a quart and a third of heavy cream, nearly a stick and half of butter, thirteen teaspoons of coconut oil, twenty slices of bacon and nine eggs. Sam's diet is just shy of 90% fat.
Of course, that diet doesn't fulfill alot of other nutritional needs, and Sam is also fed multivitamins, calcium magnesium supplements, stool softeners, and enough fluids to avoid developing kidney stones.

The trade-off? Sam used to have 100 to 130 seizures in one day. On the keto diet, that has dropped to fewer than six a day.

Read more about Sam and his keto diet here.
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