A low-carbohydrate diet may benefit patients with narcolepsy, according to the results of a small study. The researchers based their findings after examining the effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on daytime sleepiness and other symptoms in 9 narcoleptic patients. Through the course of the study, the participants were asked to follow diet guidelines based on the Atkins approach. The participant's symptoms were evaluated at the beginning of the study and after 2, 4, and 8 weeks, using 3 standard sleepiness tests.
Of the 8 remaining participants?1 had to withdraw from the study due to inability to follow the diet. One of the tests showed a major improvement in sleepiness, compared with the other 2. Temporary side effects including headache, leg cramps, and irritability were seen in 4 patients. The researchers concluded that additional studies are needed to determine if a reduction in sleepiness was the result of the diet or another factor. (The findings were reported in Neurology, June 22, 2004.)