The First International Dietary Treatments for Epilepsy and other Neurologic Disorders Meeting Report

Epilepsy News From:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

By Eric Kossoff, MD

Having just returned from the first-ever meeting devoted entirely to the ketogenic diet that was truly designed to be an international collaboration, I can honestly say I am both exhausted and exhilarated!

This three day meeting took place at the beautiful Ritz Carlton Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona from April 2 to 5. Over 270 physicians, dietitians, parents, and basic scientists from as far away as Korea, India, and Israel attended and made this meeting a superb success. Most of the sessions were "standing room only" with extra chairs put in the back despite the large meeting rooms. The sunny and warm weather was also a plus.

Jong Rho, MD (Barrow Neurologic Institute) was the primary organizer, and along with Jim Abrahams of the Charlie Foundation, myself, and the other co-organizers (see photo), we tried to make the conference appeal to all who have an interest in the ketogenic diet. Over 50 speakers helped achieve that goal.

Organizing Committee

Organizing Committee: Front row: Jim Abrahams (Charlie Foundation), Jong Rho MD (Barrow Neurologic Institute), Lindsey Kerby (Barrow Neurologic Institute), Eric Kossoff, MD (Johns Hopkins Hospital), Jorg Klepper, MD (Childrens’ Hospital Aschaffenburg, Germany ) Back row: Beth Zupec-Kania, RD (Charlie Foundation), Carl Stafstrom MD, PhD (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Helen Cross MD, PhD (UCL Institute of Child Health, London), Heung Dong Kim MD, PhD (Severance Children's Hospital, Seoul)

Charlie & Mrs. KellyThe meeting began on Thursday morning with an emotional tribute to Millicent Kelley, the dietitian from Johns Hopkins who kept the ketogenic diet going for over 30 years and who treated Charlie Abrahams in 1993. Charlie has been drug and seizure free since that time. It was even more moving since Charlie was the one to give a speech and then an award to Millie. The Charlie Foundation was named in his honor ( The Charlie Foundation was established in 1994 in order to raise awareness about the ketogenic diet as a treatment for childhood epilepsy

Conference topics and speakers:

The conference covered diverse topics of clinical research including the significant and positive results from Dr. Helen Cross' randomized and controlled study in England. Other topics included:

  • The upcoming international ketogenic diet consensus statement on how best to manage children (Dr. Kossoff),
  • How best to prevent side effects that are both short (Christina Bergqvist MD, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) and long-term (Patti Vining MD, Johns Hopkins Hospital),
  • The potential use of the ketogenic diet for brain tumors (Tom Seyfried, PhD, Boston College) and head trauma (Mayumi Prins PhD, UCLA).

Basic science topics included:

  • Effects of the ketogenic diet on potassium ATP channels (Gary Yellen, PhD, Harvard University),
  • Effects of 2-deoxyglucose (Dr. Stafstrom), and
  • Whether or not the ketogenic diet could ever be put into a pill, a provocative talk by Raman Sankar MD, PhD of UCLA. (The answer is probably not.)

Topics for dietitians included:

  • How to best implement the modified Atkins (Jennifer Dorward, RD, Johns Hopkins Hospital),
  • Low glycemic index treatments (Heidi Pfeifer, RD, Massachusetts General Hospital),
  • Nutritional supplementation (Beth Zupec-Kania), and
  • Whether ratios, calories, and fluid restrictions have any value (Elaine Wirrell, MD, Mayo Clinic Rochester). 
Convention Hall

In addition to standard lectures, there was plenty of time for discussion and sharing of ideas. Poster sessions were held at noon both Thursday and Friday, with over 50 posters in total describing cutting-edge research results.

Special sessions and a ketogenic menu

On Saturday, special sessions were held in the afternoon to focus the future of clinical trials. In many sessions, the discussion became quite animated! Lastly, attendees were able to sample a ketogenic diet meal courtesy of the Charlie Foundation during the outdoor lunch on Saturday. The menu included a choice of beef or turkey soy wraps with 2 dipping sauces; avocado with mayonnaise and an olive oil vinaigrette, a jicama salad, and of course, a low-carbohydrate chocolate power bar!

There was no doubt that this was a success on many levels. Considering the first ever poster regarding the ketogenic diet at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society was 13 years ago in 1995, the occurrence of a three day meeting devoted only to the ketogenic diet was amazing. To further capitalize on the excitement this meeting generated, the next meeting was announced and will be Spring 2010 in London.

We are pleased to present the following video from the conference courtesy of the Charlie Foundation.

In time, actual lectures and presentations will be made available at Matthew’s Friends and the Charlie Foundation’s websites. For now, further details on this meeting's agenda can be found at:

April 20, 2008
Edited by Steven C. Schachter, MD

Authored by: Eric Kossoff MD on 5/2008
Reviewed by: Steven C. Schachter, MD on 5/2008

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