Article published by UCLA Health
In a newly published study, researchers demonstrate that the ketogenic diet causes changes in the human gut microbiome — the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in the digestive tract — that can confer protection against seizures in mice. Understanding how the function of the microbiome is altered by the diet could aid in the development of new therapeutic approaches that incorporate these beneficial changes while avoiding certain drawbacks of the diet, said the study’s lead author, Gregory Lum, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA. Lum sought to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms behind diet’s alteration of the human gut microbiome. He studied how the gut microbiome is beneficially altered in children with epilepsy who start ketogenic diet therapy. Lum transplanted samples from pediatric epilepsy patients on the diet into mice to gauge whether the diet-associated gut microbiota would protect the mice against seizures. The study found that the mice that received transplants from patients collected after a month on the diet were more resistant to seizures than mice that received pre–ketogenic diet transplants. While more research on these changes is needed, the study holds promise as a step toward finding new microbiome-based therapies for pediatric epilepsy patients.