Ketogenic Diet Reduces the Risk of Dementia
Every year 1 in 3 seniors dies due to Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia. Dementia is a neurodegenerative disorder that typically affects people in their old age. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the major types of dementia, accounting for nearly 60-80% of the dementia cases.
Owing to a large number of Alzheimer’s disease cases, most people use the terms, dementia and Alzheimer’s, interchangeably. As the cognitive ailment progresses, it reduces the patient’s ability to use carbohydrates as the main fuel source for the brain. Researchers have, however, noted that the ill brain can use ketones to deliver energy to the brain cells.
This brings us to the role that a ketogenic diet plays in dementia prevention and the possible role that it can play in improving the lives of the diagnosed patients. Let’s dig into what research has to say with first understanding the basics of a keto diet.
What is a ketogenic diet?
A keto diet is a high-fat and low-carb diet that stresses the intake of small portions of carbohydrates and a significant amount of healthy fats. At the same time, the intake of proteins is kept to a moderate amount to prevent the excess proteins from converting into glucose.
Typically, your body burns carbs to yield glucose for energy. However, a ketogenic diet aims to change the status quo by reducing carb intake and shifting the body into ketosis. During the metabolic state of ketosis, the body breaks down fat to get ketone bodies for energy.
With the change in the body’s metabolic gears, the brain uses ketones as the fuel source for energy instead of glucose. The good news is that ketones have a positive reputation as neuroprotective agents, which protect the brain against degeneration, the hallmark of dementia.
The role that a keto diet plays in improving dementia
There is a strong association between the various dementia stages and blood sugar disorder. The role that glucose level in the blood play is such a prominent one that Alzheimer’s is often nicknamed as “Type 3 diabetes.”
The brain’s health and function steadily deteriorate as the blood sugar levels elevate. Consequently, the brain cells, neurons, become resistant to insulin, which is why they fail to use glucose for energy. This can lead to brain shrinkage, reduced brain activity, and death of the brain cells over time.
For someone who is not a patient of Alzheimer’s disease, the reduced energy supply triggers inflammation. It is due to this reason that people with diabetes type II are at a 50-65% risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
By viewing things from this lens, it becomes clear that using ketones as the brain’s energy source can save it from the trouble of inflammation and reduced activity. This can possibly help slash the risk of dementia.
What does the research say?
In a study of 15 men and women with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, it was learned that ketone bodies can help slow the progress of the cognitive disorder. Researchers from the University of Kansas conducted this investigation.
The study referred to as the KDRAFT for the Keto Diet Retention and Feasibility Trial, is the first to learn the role of a keto diet in Alzheimer’s disease. It found that patients were successfully able to manage a keto diet with the help of a caregiver.
At the same time, it found out that the meal plan was well-tolerated and safe for the patients. What’s more, the researchers noted that the results of cognitive tests improved significantly in 9 out of 10 participants.
Another small human trial on senior folks ended up learning that overweight elderly people on a low-carb diet showed improved performance in memory tasks. Yet another investigation learned that patients who were given a keto compound for 90 days showed significant improvements in their cognitive abilities.
These results were in contrast with people who were in a control group. Besides, animal studies have also reached the same conclusions. One study on mice learned that the ketogenic diet improved blood flow to the brain.
On top of that, it lowered the blood glucose levels and contributed to weight loss. What’s important is that the diet plan encouraged the clearance of beta-amyloid protein in the brain. These are toxic plaques that are responsible for dementia and its subsequent progress.
Furthermore, findings from another animal study showed that mice who received a keto diet also exhibited enhanced brain health. Therefore, findings from the studies conducted so far reveal that a keto diet can help improve the brain condition of a patient with dementia.
Keto diet for dementia patients
The University Health News Daily points some important steps for adopting a keto diet. These include:
- Reduce and eventually eliminate the intake of sweeteners from both artificial and natural sources
- Lessen the consumption of fruit. It’s best to take berries though as they are antioxidant powerhouses
- Consume dietary fats to keep yourself energized and full
- Increase the intake of non-starchy vegetables
- Eat enough dietary proteins from nutrient-dense sources such as pastured eggs, wild-caught fish, and so on
- Avoid hydrogenated fats and vegetable oils that show a high content of omega-6 fatty acids
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder with no cure in sight. Treatment plans revolve around managing the symptoms of the degenerative disease. In such a context, a keto diet stands out with the promises that it makes. The diet plan supplies ketone bodies to the brain, which serve as an excellent fuel source that provides energy to your brain.
In doing so, ketones reduce the odds of brain shrinkage and death of neurons. Evidence also suggests that ketone bodies can help reduce the accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain, which is the chief problem of Alzheimer’s.
About Michelle Joe: Michelle Joe is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences, and express herself through her blogs. You can find her on twitter: @michellejoe524