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Potassium citrate prevents kidney stones in epileptic children

By David Liu (davidl@foodconsumer.org) and edited by Sheilah Downey (sheilahd@foodconsumer.org)

Children eating a high-fat diet as a preventative measure against epileptic seizures may reduce the risk of getting kidney stones by taking potassium citrate, according to a new study in the August issue of Pediatrics.

The study included 301 children who were treated for epilepsy with the ketogenic diet. It concluded that those who took potassium citrate twice a day at the beginning of the regimen were seven times less likely to develop kidney stones than those who were given potassium citrate only after the calcium levels in the blood were elevated.

"We can confidently say this is a safe and powerful way to prevent kidney stones, and it should become part of standard therapy in all ketogenic dieters, not just those who already show elevated urine calcium levels," said senior investigator Dr. Eric Kossoff, a pediatric neurologist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "If you wait, it might be too late."

Specifically, the rate of kidney stones for those who took potassium citrate were 0.9 percent compared to 6.7 percent for those who took the supplement only after their serum calcium was elevated.

A high-fat ketogenic diet is often used to control epileptic seizures in children. The diet mimics aspects of starvation by forcing the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates. But the dietary regimen often raises the risk of excruciatingly painful kidney stones due to the calcium buildup in the urine. It is estimated that 6 percent of children on the diet suffer from kidney stones.

One theory is that when people eat too little of plant-based foods or too much animal-based foods, their intake of minerals such as potassium and calcium is restricted. This causes the body to release calcium from the bones to adjust the body pH. Potassium citrate, the study found, can function like calcium in this regard.