Gut bacteria are a key component in the ketogenic diet’s ability to decrease seizures in children with epilepsy. The research comes from UCLA, where researchers found a link between gut bacteria changes triggered by the diet and a decrease in the number of seizures experienced by mice. The gut bacteria changes were observed after only a few days of dieting.
The ketogenic diet is high in fat and protein and low carbohydrates. It has been known for decades that sticking to a keto diet can reduce or eliminate seizures in epileptics who don’t respond well to anti-epileptic medications. However, the reason for the diet’s positive effects wasn’t clear.
A study out of UCLA sheds light on the matter, revealing a link between changes in gut bacteria caused by the keto diet and its positive effect on epilepsy. Assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology Elaine Hsiao and colleagues used mice as the model for their study, finding that a keto diet “substantially altered” gut bacteria in less than four days.
When raised in the absence of germs or put on antibiotics to kill gut microbes, mice on the keto diet no longer experienced a decrease in seizures. However, other mice put on the keto diet experienced fewer seizures, indicating that gut bacteria is ultimately behind the change.
The researchers narrowed down which bacteria increased as a result of the diet: Akkermansia muciniphila and Parabacteroides species. Neither bacteria by itself offered protection against seizures, but when administered to germ-free mice together, the anti-seizures effects were present.