Background: The low carbohydrate, high fat ketogenic diet can be an effective anticonvulsant treatment in some pediatric patients with pharmacoresistant epilepsy. Its mechanism(s) of action, however, remain uncertain. Direct sampling of cerebrospinal fluid before and after metabolic therapy may reveal key changes associated with differential clinical outcomes.
Methods: We performed metabolomic analysis of cerebrospinal fluid samples taken before and during ketogenic diet treatment in patients with optimal response (100% seizure remission) and patients with no response (no seizure improvement) to search for differential diet effects in hallmark metabolic compounds in these two groups. Optimal responders and non-responders were similar in age range and included males and females. Seizure types and the etiologies or syndromes of epilepsy varied but did not appear to differ systematically between responders and non-responders.
Results: Principal component analysis showed a strong effect of ketogenic diet treatment on the cerebrospinal fluid metabolome. Longitudinal and between-subjects analyses revealed that many lipids and carbohydrates were changed significantly by ketogenic diet, with changes typically being of larger magnitude in responders. Notably, responders had more robust changes in glucose and the ketone bodies b-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate than non-responders; conversely, non-responders had significant increases in fructose and sorbose, which did not occur in responders.
Conclusions: The data suggest that a differential and stronger metabolic response to the ketogenic diet may predict a better anticonvulsant response, and such variability is likely due to inherent biological factors of individual patients. Strategies to boost the metabolic response may be beneficial.