A prospective study of the modified Atkins diet for intractable epilepsy in adults

Epilepsia. 2008 Feb;49(2):316-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2007.01256.x. Epub 2007 Oct 5.


Purpose: The ketogenic diet is not typically offered to adults with epilepsy due to the significant lifestyle alterations needed for its use. The modified Atkins diet has been recently demonstrated to be therapeutic for children without the need for an admission, fasting period, weighing of foods, or fluid, calorie, and protein restriction.

Methods: A prospective, open-label study was performed of adults over 18 years of age, having at least weekly seizures and prior use of at least two anticonvulsants. Carbohydrates were initially restricted to 15 g/day, fats were encouraged, and fluids, protein, and calories were allowed ad lib.

Results: Thirty patients, with age ranging from 18 to 53 years, were enrolled. Using an intent-to-treat analysis, 47% had a >50% seizure reduction after 1 and 3 months on the diet; 33% after 6 months. In those with seizure reduction, the median time to improvement was 2 weeks (range: 1-8 weeks). The mean weight loss was 6.8 kg, p < 0.001. Body-mass index (BMI) decrease correlated with efficacy at 3 months, p = 0.03. Ten subjects (30%) discontinued the diet prior to 3 months. Side effects included increased cholesterol (mean 187 to 201 mg/dL), blood urea nitrogen (BUN; 13 to 16 mg/dL), and urine calcium to creatinine ratio (0.14 to 0.19).

Conclusions: A modified Atkins diet appears to demonstrate preliminary efficacy for adults with intractable epilepsy, especially in those who lost weight. Considering the rapid response in those who improved, but somewhat high discontinuation rate, a 2-month trial period may be adequate to assess for efficacy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Blood Urea Nitrogen
  • Body Mass Index
  • Calcium / urine
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Creatinine / urine
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted / adverse effects
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted / methods*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Epilepsy / diet therapy*
  • Epilepsy / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / chemically induced
  • Ketosis / chemically induced
  • Male
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Creatinine
  • Calcium