How Ketogenic Diets May Help
“Insulin is often considered a storage hormone, since it promotes deposition of fat, but insulin may also work to encourage amyloid-beta production,” says Richad Feinman, editor of the journal Nutrition and Metabolism, which published the study, in a news release.
In an accompanying editorial, Feinman says, “Although it is too early to tell how the results will fit into the treatment of , the implication for diet in general is also important.”
Nutrition and Metabolism
Am I A Candidate For The Ketogenic Diet
While the short answer is yes for the majority of people consuming a western diet, we urge you to consult your general practitioner prior to making the switch to Keto. The Charlie Foundation will provide you with the information and tools necessary to adopt the diet, and partnering with your doctor during this process will ensure the most therapeutic outcome. We also suggest that you connect with a diet professional who can help you form a plan in collaboration with your doctor, who may be less familiar with the diet.
Using Diet To Lower Alzheimers Risk
With this as prologue, you can see why a ketogenic diet should not be the first approach to maintaining brain health. The primary focus must be to maintain vascular health by eating a healthy diet and exercising, doing everything in your power to reduce the incidence of health conditions associated with an increased risk of Alzheimers disease. These, what are referred to as co-morbidities include diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, obesity, and hypertension.
Also Check: Alzheimer’s Association Colors
Ketosis And Alzheimers Pathogenesis
As covered previously, here are the four key pathways that appear to contribute to Alzheimers progression:
- Vascular dysfunction and blood-brain-barrier issues
- Glucose hypometabolism
- Mitochondrial dysfunction, resulting in reduced energy production in the brain
- Free radical damage, which creates a vicious cycle in combination with the other three mechanisms
Can keto help address these disease progression mechanisms?
Heres what current evidence suggests.
According to recent research, going keto may increase cerebral blood flow and help repair the vascular damage that occurs in Alzheimers patients.
Evidence also demonstrates that the keto diet compensates for glucose hypometabolism by supplying ketones as an alternative fuel source.
And a study of 23 adults with mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to Alzheimers disease, found that ketones improved memory and cognitive function in the participants.
Finally, ketones and ketosis work to improve mitochondrial function, delivering more energy to the brain. As a result, they also decrease inflammation and damage from free radicals.
In summation, the keto diet does appear to address the four known pathways that contribute to the progression of Alzheimers.
However, the degree to which it can halt or even reverse the disease remains to be discovered.
Diet And Dementia Risk
Changes in the brain can occur years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear. These early brain changes suggest a possible window of opportunity to prevent or delay dementia symptoms. Scientists are looking at many possible ways to do this, including drugs, lifestyle changes and combinations of these interventions. Unlike other risk factors for Alzheimers that we cant change, such as age and genetics, people can control lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and cognitive training.
How could what we eat affect our brains? Its possible that eating a certain diet affects biological mechanisms, such as oxidative stress and inflammation, that underlie Alzheimers. Or perhaps diet works indirectly by affecting other Alzheimers risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. A new avenue of research focuses on the relationship between gut microbes tiny organisms in the digestive system and aging-related processes that lead to Alzheimers.
Also Check: Alzheimer Awareness Ribbon
What Do We Know About Diet And Prevention Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Can eating a specific food or following a particular diet help prevent or delay dementia caused by Alzheimers disease? Many studies suggest that what we eat affects the aging brains ability to think and remember. These findings have led to research on general eating patterns and whether they might make a difference.
The Mediterranean diet, the related MIND diet , and other healthy eating patterns have been associated with cognitive benefits in studies, though the evidence is not as strong as it is for other interventions like physical activity, blood pressure and cognitive training. Currently, researchers are more rigorously testing these diets to see if they can prevent or delay Alzheimers disease or age-related cognitive decline.
What Is Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease was first discovered by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who observed a woman with symptoms of the disease in 1906 and examined her brain after she passed away. During the examination, Dr. Alzheimer found that the womans brain contained many strange clumps and fiber tangles.
Today, we refer to these unusual clumps as beta-amyloid plaque and strange fiber tangles as neurofibrillary tangles. Each one interferes with neuronal connections and brain cell function, which causes thinking and memory abilities to decline. As the tangles and plaque accumulate in the brain, the symptoms get worse, and the patient moves to more advanced stages of Alzheimers disease.
Although the beta-amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles can start accumulating before old age, the first Alzheimers symptoms will usually show up in a persons mid-60s if they have the disease. Because the disease tends to progress stealthily with very subtle signs at first, many scientists are focused on finding ways to identify the disease in its earliest stages. By diagnosing the disease before memory loss takes hold, we have a higher likelihood of stopping its progression and reversing some aspects of the disease. At this point, however, there is no legitimate cure even if Alzheimers disease is diagnosed in its early stages.
Don’t Miss: Alzheimers Awareness Ribbons
The Problem With A Keto Diet For Alzheimers According To An Expert
A ketogenic diet is very high in fats, low in carbs and moderate in protein. A keto breakfast, for example, might involve mixing your coffee with coconut oil, heavy cream and butter, and scrambling eggs with cream cheese, adding a side of smoked salmon for protein. Its a way of forcing your body to make and rely on ketone bodies, a byproduct of metabolism when a person is not taking in enough carbohydrates. Ketones come from the breakdown of fat when there are not enough carbohydrates to keep the blood glucose within normal limits. Some believe that Alzheimers stems from trouble processing glucose, which is typically the brains preferred source of fuel. It is known that as we age, less glucose is able to cross the blood-brain barrier in order to fuel the brain. The ketogenic diet provides a way for ketones to take up the energy slack.
Sounds great, right? Well, much like popping an ibuprofen to lessen the inflammation many experts think is behind Alzheimers, its not always that simple. According to Ed Blonz, Ph.D., a nutritionist and assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, using the ketogenic diet as a way to get this alternate fuel in to the brain is a questionable method for Alzheimers disease prevention and treatment.
Ketogenic Diet And Other Memory Disorders
There appears to be a general consensus that ketones may offer a protective effect to neurons to reduce risk or slow progression of dementia and memory loss association with aging. The mechanism is unclear, but likely due to the anti-inflammatory effect of a lower-carb or ketogenic diet.
A 2012 study compared memory between a group following a low-carb diet and one following a low-fat diet. The low-carb group showed significant improvements compared to the low-fat, higher carb group, and the improvements were directly correlated to ketone body levels. Another study showed that a ketogenic diet increased ketone body levels along with increased cognitive functioning in a study examining aging rats.
There have also been a few studies looking at the effect that the ketogenic diet may have as a treatment for autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and migraines. While most of the findings are promising, many more studies are needed and there is not enough data or understanding to use ketogenic diets as a form of treatment.
Also Check: How Fast Does Ftd Progress
Diet May Slow Alzheimer’s Disease
In the study, researchers analyzed the effects of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet in female mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
After 43 days on the ketogenic diet, researchers found beta-amyloid protein levels in the brain were reduced by 25% compared with a similar group of mice eating a standard low-fat and high-carb diet. Mice fed the ketogenic diet also lost weight.
However, despite these changes, mice on the high-fat, low-carb diet did not exhibit any changes in behavior in comparison with mice fed the standard low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet after 38 days.
Can Keto Cure Alzheimers
No supplement or diet has been found to cure Alzheimers disease. At this point, the research suggests that the best strategy is to diagnose the disease as quickly as possible and take steps to prevent its progression. In other words, the best cure for Alzheimers disease is prevention.
However, this doesnt mean that we wont find a cure in the future. Just as weve learned in recent years that conditions like type 2 diabetes can be reversed with diet, there is promise for the potential to reverse Alzheimers Disease as well.
In fact, we might find in the future that this horrible disease can be healed with a complete shift in diet and lifestyle. We already know the ketogenic diet may be the best dietary choice for Alzheimers patients, but what about other lifestyle choices?
Read Also: What Color Is Alzheimer’s Awareness Ribbon
Ready To Get Started Learn The Basics
The Ketogenic Diet, also referred to as the ketosis diet, or Keto for short, is a way of eating that mimics the effects of fasting. By consuming a diet rich in quality fats, adequate in protein, and low in net carbohydrates , the bodys metabolism begins to utilize fat as its main source of fuel, rather than carbs. This shift has profound effects on metabolism for both the sick and healthy alike. The diet shows promise for improving or reversing many neurological conditions and metabolic disorders. For the healthy, the diet represents a tool for preventing chronic disease, as well as optimizing cognition and body composition .
How Does The Keto Diet Work
Here are the basics of keto: The diet aims to force your body into using a different type of fuel. Instead of relying on sugar that comes from carbohydrates , the keto diet relies on ketone bodies, a type of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat.
Burning fat seems like an ideal way to lose pounds. But getting the liver to make ketone bodies is tricky:
- It requires that you deprive yourself of carbohydrates, fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day .
- It typically takes a few days to reach a state of ketosis.
- Eating too much protein can interfere with ketosis.
Recommended Reading: Alzheimer’s Neurotransmitters Affected
Etiopathogenesis Of Alzheimers Disease
The etiology of AD remains not fully explained, but both genetic and environmental risk factors have been proposed to be involved. Thus, the etiopathogenesis of AD has been linked to hypometabolism , mitochondrial dysfunction , inflammation , and oxidative stress . Some more cellular events associated with AD neuropathogenesis include impairment of calcium homeostasis and disturbed autophagy . On the brain tissue level, neurons loss, brain atrophy, and cerebral amyloid angiopathy have to be mentioned . In addition, the systems-level characteristic for AD involves the blood-brain barrier abnormalities, brain arteries atherosclerosis, and brain hypoperfusion . Moreover, genome-wide association studies have revealed that more than 20 genetic loci may be implicated with the risk of AD development . The primary gene is the apolipoprotein E , and the epsilon 4 variant of ApoE was found to increase the risk for AD generation . Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus are the essential risk factors of AD .
Keto And Modifiable Risk Factors
As discussed in a previous section, up to a third of all Alzheimers cases may be preventable by targeting the risk factors that can be changed .
First of all, lets review the known modifiable risk factors:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Overweight or obesity
Now its time to take a look at how keto interacts with each of these risk factors.
Traumatic Brain Injury
While no one chooses to get TBIs or concussions, theres substantial evidence that keto reduces the adverse effects of TBIs in animals, and may do the same in humans.
These effects certainly apply after TBIs, but if you are already in ketosis before you receive a head injury, the benefits of keto for TBIs are even more pronounced.
Translation: TBIs increase your risk of Alzheimers, but keto appears to reduce damage from TBIs.
Next up, insulin resistance.
Some researchers have begun calling Alzheimers type 3 diabetes because severe insulin resistance increases risk of the disease by up to four-fold.
The pathogenesis of Alzheimers dementia has a lot in common with diabetes, too. Diabetes and Alzheimers both involve glucose hypometabolism, mitochondrial dysfunction, and free radical damage.
Insulin resistance occurs primarily because of excessive carbohydrate intake. So its hardly surprising that a low carbohydrate keto diet is a fantastic way to improve insulin sensitivity, including in your brain.
For even better results, pair keto with regular exercise.
High Blood Pressure
Also Check: What Is Senility
The Causes Of Alzheimers
Just as there is currently no true cure, the exact cause of Alzheimers disease is still not known. However, we are getting closer.
It is generally agreed upon that age, not genetics as some may believe, is the most significant risk factor. This is due to the fact that Alzheimers disease increases exponentially with age in people aged 65 or older.
Other known factors that contribute to Alzheimers are genetic variations in apolipoprotein E , degeneration of brain cells, mitochondrial dysfunction , immune system dysfunction, and infectious agents and other environmental factors such as exposure to aluminum, repeated head injury, and malnutrition.
Each one of these factors can contribute to a build-up of beta-amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, which results in a chronic inflammatory response, an increase in oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction. The combination of inflammation, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction lead to more amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangle build-up, and the vicious cycle continues, progressing the patient to more and more severe stages of Alzheimers disease.
The adverse effects that high-carb diets have on brain health are thought to be caused by sugar. Recent research has shown that blood sugar glucose and Alzheimers disease are linked. As blood sugar levels increase, so does the progression of Alzheimers disease.
The Impact Of The Ketogenic Diet On Amyloid And Tau Protein
Defects in mitochondrial and respiratory chain function may alter APP processing, resulting in production neurotoxic A . The ketogenic diet could alleviate the effects of impaired glucose metabolism by providing ketones as alternative metabolic substrates for the brain. Besides, this diet may help to reduce the deposition of amyloid plaques by reversing the A toxicity . Studies suggest that KD may affect neuropathological and biochemical changes observed in AD. Rodents treated with the KD, exogenous -OHB, and MCT display reduced brain A levels, protection from amyloid- toxicity, and improved mitochondrial function . In the transgenic mice model of AD, it was observed that KD made soluble A deposits level in their brain 25% less after only 40 days . Also, in humans, this process may be determined by the presence or absence of the ApoE4 genotype however, the presence of which is a risk factor for AD development .
Don’t Miss: Quality Of Life Alzheimer’s Disease
Ketogenic Diet And Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease is another degenerative brain condition that researchers havent been able to pinpoint a direct cause or cure. While Alzheimers largely affects memory, Parkinsons disease affects movement. It is characterized by the death of cells that produce dopamine and the build-up of another type of protein plaque called Lewy bodies, and its the lack of dopamine that leads to triggers, rigid muscles, and problems controlling movement.
Following the keto diet seems to have some neuroprotective effects that may augment or support other therapies and treatments. Theres less research about its potential effects on Parkinsons progression and symptoms with most being animal studies, the findings are still promising.
Research suggests that ketone bodies may provide fuel for those dopamine-producing brain cells when glucose is unable to reach them and certain ketone bodies may be able to rescue those neurons and prevent their death.
Another study using mice suggested that the ketogenic diet protected dopamine-producing neurons from death, increased the number of dopamine-producing cells, improved motor dysfunction, and reduced inflammatory markers.
How Long Should I Be On The Diet
We at the Charlie Foundation believe that a 3-month commitment to the diet is a minimum commitment to allow your body to fully acclimate to the new fat based fuel source. Since most people following a western diet are not proficient at metabolizing fat optimally, this period allows the body time to become fat-adapted, utilizing dietary fat efficiently and effectively. There are a variety of nutritional plans that will enable a ketogenic lifestyle, and flexibility is one of the hallmarks of the diet that make it easy to adopt as a life-long tool to enhance your health. Our nutritionists can help figure out both the short and long-term options best suited for you and your lifestyle.
Don’t Miss: Alzheimer’s Color Ribbon
Delicious Meals No Hunger No Keto Flu
For the next two weeks we followed the Diet Doctor ketogenic recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eggs fried, scrambled, poached, baked and either bacon or sausage were typical breakfast items, usually with avocado and cherry tomatoes on the side. For variety, some days we tried the various recipes for keto pancakes, always served with whipping cream and blueberries. The pancake recipe using cottage cheese was the hands-down favourite. Morning coffee and afternoon tea had full-fat cream and a spoonful of coconut oil.
A typical lunch was a salad with homemade soup , often with a cheese plate and keto seed crackers.
Dinner was usually a simple protein a piece of fish or meat with a salad and vegetables The crack slaw stuffed cabbage casserole and the sausage, cauliflower and broccoli casserole were also favourites with plenty of leftovers for lunches. Berries and whipping cream, with a square of 85% chocolate, was the typical evening dessert.
The food was delicious, and we never felt hungry, said my mother.
Mom and I enjoyed working in the kitchen together it was a time of bonding and sharing as we planned meals, shopped, chopped and cooked together. Dad was always involved in the table setting and cleanup he loads a dishwasher like an efficient engineer.
While the three of us were eating exactly the same diet and almost identical portion sizes, our ketone readings were quite different from each other.