Epilepsy Miracle Diet Cuts Seizures Drugs Can't

hungry, dinner, knife, fork, boy, istockphoto, 4x3
hungry, dinner, knife, fork, boy, istockphoto, 4x3

(CBS) What do you call a father who makes his grade-schooler eat heavy cream, butter, bacon, eggs, and whole-fat yogurt mixed with coconut oil?

If the child has epilepsy, you might call him a good dad.

Sounds implausible, but research has shown that a super-high fat, low-carbohydrate diet can cut the frequency of seizures in kids with epilepsy. One dad familiar with the diet, Fred Vogelstein, wrote about it recently in the New York Times. His nine-year-old son Sam has epilepsy, and before going on the diet he had as many as 30 seizures a day - and they couldn't be controlled with antiseizure medication.

Sam's diet - which is almost 90 percent fat - "tricks" the body into starvation mode, which causes it to burn fat, and not carbohydrates, according to Vogelstein. "Remarkably, and for reasons that are still unclear, this process - called ketosis - has an antiepileptic effect," he writes.

The ketogenic diet - "keto" for short - is not some fringe treatment. It was developed almost 80 years ago, according to the Epilepsy Foundation website. And it helps two out of three children who try it, preventing seizures completely in one out of three.

But the diet has its downsides.

Sam has to drink lots of water to avoid kidney stones, and he has to use stool softeners to cope with chronic constipation, according to his dad. Plus, he has to take a daily multivitamin and calcium-magnesium supplement. Otherwise, "his growth would be stunted, his hair and teeth would fall out, and his bones would become as brittle as an 80 year-old's."

But for Sam and his dad, those problems are a small price to pay.

Three million Americans have epilepsy, including more than 325,000 children under the age of 15, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.