In the classic ketogenic diet, fat makes up 90% of the calories. Although proven to be effective for the management of seizures, the classic ketogenic diet is highly restrictive and can be unpleasant for some children to eat. An alternative to the ketogenic diet is the MCT ketogenic diet. The MCT diet is less restrictive in that fat makes up 70% of the calories and participants use medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil as a supplement for added healthy fats.

While the exact mechanism of how these diets work is unknown, it is believed to be linked to the body’s production of ketones as a result of increased fat metabolism or breakdown. However, it has been observed that the MCT ketogenic diet does not produce as many ketones as the classic ketogenic diet. Does this mean that the MCT diet is less effective?

Dr. Elizabeth Donner, Ms. Helen Lowe (ketogenic dietitian) and colleagues are studying ketone levels and seizure control in different diet formulations. Dr. Donner’s study found that despite ketone levels being lower on the MCT ketogenic diet, there was no significant difference in seizure control for children on the classic ketogenic diet as compared to the MCT ketogenic diet at 6-month follow-up.

These findings suggest that MCT oil may have a beneficial effect on seizure control independent of ketone production. Dr. Donner plans to examine other factors that may contribute to seizure control in children treated with ketogenic diets, and better understand their role in seizure management.

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