There is a common misconception that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by poor diet. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is a result of a combination of genetics and lifestyle.

It’s no secret that Alzheimer’s disease is a growing concern. It’s estimated that by 2050, Alzheimer’s will affect more than 26 million Americans. One possible cause is a ketogenic diet, which is a diet that centers around very low carbohydrate intake and high fat intake.

Alzheimer’s disease, or AD, is one of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century. People living with the disease lose their memories and their cognitive abilities, and they gradually lose their motor abilities and become unable to care for themselves. This is due to the gradual destruction of the brain tissue, which begins in the hippocampus region and spreads to other areas of the brain.

I’d want to try the ketogenic diet. If it improves my memory, I’ll try anything. In late January 2018, my 91-year-old mother stated something similar. My 92-year-old father replied, “Let’s do it.” What do we have to lose?

My elderly parents, who are both passionate self-employed individuals approaching retirement age, would want their minds to continue to operate at their best. A substantial loss of cognitive capacity in any of them would represent a severe danger to the freedoms they cherish and would decrease their quality of life considerably.

Her daughters, sons-in-law, and several of her grandkids have all converted to the ketogenic diet in the last three years, and they have heard how wonderful we feel. Some of us have observed an increase in mental clarity, which some people attribute to the ketogenic diet.

So they wondered whether dramatically reducing carbohydrates and consuming more fat might be beneficial to her brain.

For example, my mother experienced memory difficulties that were both irritating and scary to her. B. she struggled to write down the things on her grocery list. She understood exactly what she wanted, but names and spellings didn’t always spring to her. She quit riding last year on her own will because she was constantly perplexed, particularly in tense circumstances. Father was still a sharp observer, but he thought his memory wasn’t as sharp as he’d want.

Is it possible for the ketogenic diet to help halt or stop cognitive deterioration as people become older? They were intellectually inquisitive and wanted to know all there was to know about everything. I feel the same way.

So, in mid-February, I flew from my residence on the west coast of Canada to my parents’ house north of Toronto for a five-hour trip. For a month, I lived with them to educate them about the keto diet and assist them with grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking.

To monitor my blood ketone levels, I used a ketostix and a ketone meter. To make sure they weren’t dropping too much weight, I brought over a tape measure and a scale. I also completed a validated cognitive assessment exam to assist me document the changes that happened over the course of our month together.

You may be the oldest pair to publicly embark on the low-carb diet challenge. They do it not to reduce weight or control diabetes, but in the hopes of improving their mental health.

Is it possible for them to quickly enter ketosis and feel good about it? Can they generate enough ketones to offer an alternate fuel source for their brains? Will their cognitive abilities substantially improve?

I was eager to find out, as were the guinea pig parents.

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are becoming more common.

In Western cultures, Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative illnesses that impair memory, behavior, and decision-making have become epidemics.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affect approximately 50 million people worldwide, including 7.5 million in Western Europe and 5 million in North America. Over the next 30 years, these numbers are projected to rise by more than 200 percent, reaching 150 million cases globally by 2050.

Type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure are all risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. A low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet has been found to reduce or improve certain risk variables in studies.

My parents are among the individuals who are most resistant to Alzheimer’s disease.

They have a high level of education. He worked as a general surgeon and taught surgery at three medical colleges in Canada. She received a scholarship to college and worked as a research assistant in the laboratory of the Nobel Laureates who discovered insulin before having a family.

Throughout their lives, they are financially comfortable, socially engaged, and physically active. They stopped going on weekly ski vacations when they were 83, but my father still enjoys shoveling snow out of the driveway during the hard Canadian winters (and he doesn’t let anybody assist him!).

Increasing age is one risk factor that cannot be avoided. The risk of dementia increases as we grow older. And then every year after that until you reach the age of 80. After the age of 60, the risk of dementia rises rapidly, reaching 40% by the age of 100.

There is currently no cure or effective therapy available. Over the last two decades, research has progressed quickly, with over 3,200 clinical trials spanning a wide range of treatments, including multi-phase investigations of over 100 novel medicines. Despite this, the medicines’ efficacy was abysmal.

Many middle-aged and older individuals are concerned about acquiring Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia since the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease has risen significantly.

This is a worry that both my parents have. They want to try the ketogenic diet if it has any possibility of being beneficial.

Ketones are well-liked by the brain.

Ketones can satisfy most of the brain’s fuel requirements, which has long been recognized. Ketones are made by your liver from fatty acids, which originate from either fats in your food or fats stored in your body.

Although carbs are converted down into glucose in the digestive system, you don’t need to eat them to get the little quantity of glucose your brain requires. In reality, a process known as gluconeogenesis allows your liver to produce all of the glucose your brain requires (literally, making new glucose).

For over a century, it has been shown that increasing the usage of ketones as a brain fuel may enhance some damaged brain processes.

For over a century, it has been shown that increasing the usage of ketones as a brain fuel may enhance some damaged brain processes.

In some instances, but not all, a ketogenic diet may decrease the frequency and severity of seizures in children with epilepsy, according to numerous high-quality studies. Ketone metabolism has been proposed by a number of researchers as having potential uses in a variety of different aspects of brain health.

There are many videos and studies on the ketogenic diet’s benefits for migraines, brain cancer, and traumatic brain injury. Many individuals who follow a ketogenic diet report better mental health, including anxiety, depression, and bipolar illness, according to anecdotal evidence. Despite this, the research base seems to be limited, despite its potential.

Psychiatrist Dr. Georgia Ede has a more upbeat outlook. My motto is: Nutrition is the most effective method to alter brain chemistry because that’s where the chemicals in the brain originate from, she adds.

While the precise mechanisms of ketones’ benefits on brain health are unknown, a 2018 study indicates that ketones may enhance energy generation, increase neuron growth factors, improve neuronal synapses’ signaling, and decrease inflammation in the brain. Ketones maintain neuronal connections in the brain, while glucose destabilizes them, according to a 2020 research.

To me, a ketogenic diet makes sense for preventing or perhaps treating Alzheimer’s disease. According to Dr. Ede, you have nothing to lose by giving it a go. This is a sector with a lot of promise.

Antidote to Alzheimer’s Disease by Amy Berger is a popular book that promotes the ketogenic diet as a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Mary Newport wrote another book in 2015 on how she delayed her husband’s Alzheimer’s illness by giving him coconut oil, MCT oil (derived from coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and dairy products), and ketone supplements.

Evidence based on science Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have reduced glucose absorption in their brains.

Insulin resistance (IR) in the brain may interfere with glucose absorption for fuel in Alzheimer’s disease, according to Dr. Ede in his 2017 video. In a similar piece for Psychology Today, she also discusses this topic. Alzheimer’s disease prevention may be simpler than you believe.

Insulin resistance in the brain is so extensively established as a component linked to Alzheimer’s disease that some experts believe Alzheimer’s to be type 3 diabetes.

Insulin resistance in the brain is so extensively established as a component linked to Alzheimer’s disease that some experts believe Alzheimer’s to be type 3 diabetes.

This IR in the brain, which restricts the utilization of glucose by the brain independent of blood glucose levels, may explain why individuals with type 2 diabetes have a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Autopsy data revealed that 81 percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease had type 2 diabetes or prediabetes in a 2004 research. Another autopsy investigation of individuals who died from Alzheimer’s disease discovered signs of glucose dysregulation in the brain.

IR in the brain may influence glucose absorption even in individuals with diabetes or prediabetes who have been symptom-free for years. Young women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are also susceptible (PCOS). A low-carb or keto diet may be beneficial for PCOS, a reproductive metabolic disease in which insulin resistance plays a role.

According to Dr. Steven Kannane of the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, “we know that with Alzheimer’s disease, the brain loses its capacity to utilize glucose.” Kuhnane and his colleagues are pioneers in the use of positron emission tomography (PET), a technique that utilizes radioactively tagged glucose molecules to see how brain cells absorb sugar.

Kannan said that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease had changed glucose metabolism in the brain since the early 1980s, thanks to the introduction of positron emission tomography.

Glucose metabolism in some regions of the brain is decreased by 40% in Alzheimer’s disease. According to Cunnane, “we believe that this energy deficit raises the likelihood of brain malfunction and cognitive decline.”

Dr. Kuhnane has written over 60 papers, including many on brain energy metabolism utilizing PET imaging, which he has used to study Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. While glucose absorption is reduced in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain’s utilization of ketones is unaffected, according to his study.

Kuhnane likened our brains to a hybrid vehicle that can operate on glucose or ketone in a February 2018 presentation. It makes perfect sense to transition to ketones when the body can no longer operate effectively on glucose, either via a ketogenic diet or by taking ketone supplements. In a 2016 paper, Cannane said that attempts to treat cognitive impairments in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease using ketogenic treatments in clinical trials are safe, ethical, and scientifically reasonable.

Early clinical studies have shown encouraging early findings.

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Despite the fact that the scientific evidence for using ketones to treat Alzheimer’s disease is compelling, many academics and doctors still see this strategy as novel and unconventional. Despite hundreds of other clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease, few ketogenic treatments have been tested in humans, despite a number of studies in rodents. Furthermore, only a few new research are actively recruiting participants.

The following is a list of the studies that have been done so far:

  • Individuals who followed a modified ketogenic diet (29 percent protein, 59 percent fat, and 6 percent net carbohydrate) had a significantly better quality of life and were better able to perform daily activities than those who followed a low-fat diet, according to a randomized cross-sectional study published in 2021. They also observed that the ketogenic diet caused no pain and had no increased adverse effects.
  • In a 2012 research, 23 older individuals with moderate cognitive impairment (MCI) were randomly assigned to one of two diets: a ketogenic diet with few carbs or a low-fat diet with numerous carbohydrates for six weeks. The ketogenic diet helped people lose weight and inches off their waistlines while also improving their blood sugar and insulin levels. Importantly, memory test scores increased substantially in the low-carb group, with the highest blood ketone levels showing the most improvement.
  • Kuhnane’s group performed a six-month randomized controlled study of ketone supplementation (30 grams of MCTs per day) in 17 individuals with mild to severe Alzheimer’s disease, which they reported in 2018. The cognitive outcomes were extremely promising. We would suggest taking 40 to 45 grams of MCTs per day, rather than 30 grams, based on what we discovered in this research, he added.
  • A study of 19 healthy individuals over the age of 60 with normal cognitive skills was performed by Japanese researchers in 2016. Participants were given a ketogenic lunch containing MCT oil, and blood ketone levels were assessed as well as cognitive assessments 90 and 180 minutes following the meal. Those who had the worst cognitive function before to the keto diet improved the most in working memory, visual attention, and task switching following the diet.
  • The findings of a study of older people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were released in 2017 by Kansas researchers. For three months, the 15 individuals followed a ketogenic diet supplemented with MCT oil. The four patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease declined to participate because their carers found the intervention too demanding. However, 10 out of 11 individuals with moderate Alzheimer’s disease stuck to the diet and improved significantly on cognitive tests. However, one month after the diet ended, these gains had vanished once again.
  • Maintaining ketosis, whether through a ketogenic diet, ketone supplementation, or MCT supplementation, appears promising for improving short- and long-term cognition in patients with AD/MCI (Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment), according to a systematic review of randomized controlled trials published in 2020. They also discovered that individuals who did not have the ApoE4 gene had a stronger beneficial impact.

N=3 in a small family survey

My parents and I started our experiment on February 19th, 2018. She was weighed and her height, waist, legs, hips, and arms were all measured. They had never been overweight before; the issue was weight loss and extreme weakness. The woman stood 157 centimeters tall, weighed 50 kilograms, and had a body mass index of 21. The father stood 1.70 meters (175 cm) tall, weighed 73 kilograms (160 pounds), and had a BMI of 23.6. We won’t be fasting, and I’ll make sure they have enough of calories to avoid losing weight.

We haven’t had to worry about my mother’s pharmaceutical side effects since she doesn’t use prescription medications, which is an uncommon occurrence among seniors. Father is on five medicines: a diuretic and a beta blocker for blood pressure and moderate heart failure (he had a minor quiet heart attack approximately 15 years ago), hypothyroidism meds, warfarin, and baby aspirin for atrial fibrillation and stroke prevention, and medications for hypothyroidism. He was confident in the drug levels since he was a doctor.

I gave each of my parents the MoCA (Montreal Cognitive Assessment) exam individually before starting the keto diet. It is a 15-minute validated test with 30 questions that may be given by GPs in their offices to identify individuals with cognitive impairment. It contains activities like sketching a clock face with the hands at a particular time, drawing a geometric shape, recognizing four exotic animals in images, remembering five words without help, and subtracting sevens from a sequence of numbers, as well as other speaking, thinking, and memory assessments.

My father, who still reads the Lancet medical daily every week and devours a book nearly every other day, had just four out of five terms with delayed recall. With a normal value of 26/30, he is in good shape.

Setting the hands on the clock to the right time, sketching a three-dimensional geometric shape, identifying exotic creatures, subtracting sevens, and listing all the words she knew that started with the letter F were all areas where Mom struggled. She, on the other hand, had no issues with concentration or delayed word memory. By approximately ten points, he fell short of our expectations.

No hunger, no keto flu, just a delicious dinner

We followed ketogenic meals for breakfast, lunch, and supper for the following two weeks. Typical breakfast meals included eggs (fried, scrambled, boiled, soft boiled, fried) and bacon or sausage, which were typically complemented with avocado and cherry tomatoes. We experimented with various keto doughnut recipes for diversity, always serving them with whipped cream and blueberries. One of my favorites was the cottage cheese pancake dish. Morning coffee and afternoon tea were made with fat-free cream and a teaspoon of coconut oil.

A typical meal consists of a salad served with homemade soup (bone broth, vegetable and meat soup, or low-fat cream of mushroom soup), cheese, and wheat crackers.

Dinner was typically a basic meal like a piece of fish (with capers or a wonderful salmon cooked in lemon) or meat (roast chicken, roast beef) with salad and veggies (always with a butter or cheese sauce). The cabbage dish, as well as the sausage, cauliflower, and broccoli dish, were also huge hits, with plenty of leftovers for lunch. The evening’s trademark dessert was berries and whipped cream with an 85 percent chocolate square.

My mother said that the meal was excellent and that we never went hungry.

My mother and I enjoyed spending time in the kitchen together; it was a time of connection and sharing when we planned meals, went grocery shopping, chopped vegetables together, and cooked together. Dad was always there to set the table and clean up, and he was an expert at filling the dishwasher.

Every night, we removed common items from their diet, such as bread, potatoes, rice, and a high-carbohydrate dessert. The only thing Dad missed was Mom’s occasional apple pie, but that desire was soon fulfilled when we prepared a low-carb apple treat. (And it was a lot less work than making a cake, according to Mom.)

They both fell into moderate ketosis within two days, with no keto flu or other adverse effects, according to Ketostix. In comparison to the Ketostix findings, I measured more precise blood ketone levels every few days.

Despite the fact that we ate the same meals and nearly similar amounts, our ketone levels were drastically different.

My blood levels have varied from 1.9 mmol/l to 3.3 mmol/l throughout my three years on the keto diet. Ketones in the mother’s blood ranged from 0.7 to 1.3 mmol/l. The father’s ketones were always between 0.6 and 0.9 mmol/L.

According to Coonan’s findings, there is no difference in the capacity of young and elderly individuals to generate ketones. He informed me that the various responses to ketones in different individuals are well-known and difficult to explain.

Throughout this period, my weight has stayed constant at 62 pounds. In the first five days, the mother dropped 1 kg and the father 2 kg, and both stayed at a lower weight. I was worried we’d have to abandon the experiment if they continued falling. They never lost again after that first week.

Every meal had butter, whipped cream, and coconut oil, which may explain why my ketones were so high and my weight remained constant. I wasn’t burning fat in my own body, and my blood ketones reflected all the fat I was consuming.

What were the results of the cognitive tests?

We did another version of the MoCA test after two weeks of ketosis (same basic form, different questions). The father’s score improved to 29/30, up three points. (In the meanwhile, he agrees to memorizing a list of words, but incentive and mental stimulation are permitted.) Mom’s score improved by five points to 22/30, which is a considerable increase. We were blown away with the outcomes.

They claimed, however, that no bodily alterations had occurred. Ketosis did not provide them with a surge of energy or a subjective feeling of mental clarity, as it did their daughters. Nonetheless, they enjoyed the meal.

We performed another version of the test two weeks later, following a total of four weeks on the keto diet. Dad’s blood pressure was still 29/30, which is excellent for a 92-year-old guy. For the first time, Mom felt the test’s dread and terror. I wanted to make it as pleasant and simple as possible for them; it was simply a fun family event. But we both understood how important her grades were to her. She lost two points to 20/30, which is still better than her pre-keto score but not as well as we anticipated.

Is it possible that it was simply a terrible day? We were undecided. I wasn’t in the best of moods. She said that she was worried and that she had acquired a cold.

It was time for me to return to my spouse and children the following day. My parents, on the other hand, have chosen to follow the keto diet on their own for as long as they can – at least until summer. To fulfill the requirements of the current clinical studies, they intend to give it at least 12 weeks.

Will they forego the fresh fruit and delicious corn that the local farmers outside their tiny town are harvesting in the summer? You’re undecided. They realize that at 92, they won’t have the opportunity to enjoy fresh fruit from farm stalls very frequently.

The ketogenic diet, on the other hand, makes sense for them.

Mom adds, “Now I know what it is, and it’s not that difficult to accomplish.” I believe it will be beneficial.

We’ll remain on track, replied the father.

While they may not be able to turn back time, they believe they have everything under control and comfort themselves by feeding the brain more ketones for the time being. They have nothing to lose by trying, as Dad says.

Ann Mullens is a writer who lives in the United States.

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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the world. In America alone there are over 5.4 million people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. One of the biggest factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain. These plaques are the main culprit in the development of Alzheimer’s disease since they form the basis of it.. Read more about does low-carb diet cause alzheimer’s and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can keto diet prevent Alzheimer’s?

There is no evidence that the keto diet can prevent Alzheimer’s.

Can keto reverse dementia?

There is no evidence that keto can reverse dementia.

Is keto diet good for dementia?

The keto diet is not recommended for people with dementia.