E-mail management of the Modified Atkins Diet for adults with epilepsy is feasible and effective


Address correspondence to Mackenzie C. Cervenka, Johns Hopkins Epilepsy Center, 600 North Wolfe Street, Meyer 2-147, Baltimore, MD 21287, U.S.A. E-mail: mcerven1@jhmi.edu


Purpose:  The modified Atkins Diet (MAD) is an effective dietary treatment for children with epilepsy. However, adults may have limited access to this therapy because of lack of availability of dietitian or nutrition support or familiarity with the diet by their treating neurologist. This study was designed to investigate the tolerability and efficacy of the MAD administered solely via e-mail to adults with pharmacoresistant epilepsy.

Methods:  A prospective, open-label, proof-of-principle 3-month study design was employed. Adults were enrolled, instructed on how to self-administer a 20 g carbohydrate per day MAD, and followed by the investigators only via e-mail. There were no clinic visits or dietitian contacts during the study period.

Key Findings:  Twenty-five participants (median age 30 years [range 18–66 years], 68% female) consented and 22 started the MAD. The median prior anticonvulsants was 5 (range 2–10) and seizure frequency was 5 per week (range 1–140). Urinary ketosis was achieved in 21 participants (95%), of which 16 (76%) reported at least 40 mg/dl (moderate). Twenty-one participants (95%) remained on the MAD at 1 month and 14 (64%) at 3 months. After 1 month, 9 (41%) had >50% seizure reduction including one (5%) with >90% seizure reduction using intent-to-treat analysis. After 3 months, 6 (27%) had >50% seizure reduction including 3 (14%) with >90% seizure reduction. The mean ketogenic ratio was 1.1:1 (fat:carbohydrates and protein) for those who provided a MAD food record at follow-up. Over the study period, the median number of e-mails sent by the participants was 6 (range 1–19). The most frequent side effect was weight loss.

Significance:  E-mail administration of the MAD to adults with refractory epilepsy appears to be feasible and effective. Therefore, when dietitian or physician support is limited for adult patients with epilepsy, remote access via telemedicine could provide an alternative.