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Open Neurosci J. 2010 Jan 1;4(1):58-63.

Purines and the Anti-Epileptic Actions of Ketogenic Diets.

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  • 1Department of Psychology/Neuroscience Program, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, 06106, USA.


Ketogenic diets are high in fat and low in carbohydrates and represent a well-established and effective treatment alternative to anti-epileptic drugs. Ketogenic diets are used for the management of a variety of difficult-to-treat or intractable seizure disorders, especially pediatric refractory epilepsy. However, it has been shown that this dietary therapy can reduce seizures in people of all ages, and ketogenic diets are being applied to other prevalent medical conditions such as diabetes. Although used effectively to treat epilepsy for nearly 90 years, the mechanism(s) by which ketogenic diets work to reduce seizures remain ill-understood. One mechanism receiving increased attention is based on findings that ketogenic diets increase the brain energy molecule ATP, and may also increase the levels and actions of the related endogenous inhibitory neuromodulator adenosine. ATP and adenosine have both been identified as important modulators of seizures; seizures increase the actions of these purines, these purines regulate epileptic activity in brain, adenosine receptor antagonists are pro-convulsant, and adenosinergic mechanisms have been implicated previously in the actions of approved anti-epileptic therapeutics. Here we will review recent literature and describe findings that shed light on mechanistic relationships between ketogenic diets and the purines ATP and adenosine. These emerging mechanisms hold great promise for the effective therapeutic management of epileptic seizures and other neurological conditions.

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