I haven’t encountered a lot of stigma about ketogenic diets. I think scientists are much more open-minded than physicians. It was actually very easy for me to find mentors who were interested in low-carb, high-fat diets.
– Bryan Barksdale
We’ve already seen the wealth of scientific evidence that strongly supports low-carb, high-fat, ketogenic diets. But the evidence doesn’t stop there; there is also very good, though less definitive, scientific research underway on many other common diseases. The effects of ketosis on the conditions covered in this chapter haven’t been examined in long-term studies—all the studies outlined lasted one year or less—but they seem to respond quite well to a ketogenic nutritional therapy and show great promise for future controlled clinical trials, if and when the funding for such research can be obtained.
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), Parkinson’s Disease, and Dementia
Increased ketone availability has been demonstrated to improve cognitive function in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease. The science is so compelling that the FDA has actually approved a medical food that increases ketone availability as an Alzheimer’s treatment. In one study, a ketogenic diet provided more improvement in functionality for Parkinson’s patients than pharmaceutical intervention.
– Dr. David Perlmutter
The human brain needs fat and cholesterol for proper functioning, and it can be fueled by either glucose or ketones. After keto-adaptation from consuming a low-carb, high-fat diet, the brain gets most of its energy from ketone bodies. This becomes an important factor when we begin looking at the diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia. We know that being in a state of ketosis lowers chronic inflammation levels, provides a fantastic fuel source for the brain, and significantly reduces the production of insulin—which have all been implicated in the development of these neurological diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), commonly referred to in research circles now as “type 3 diabetes,” is a progressive dementia leading to memory loss and loss of function due to a lack of insulin sensitivity in the brain, and unfortunately there is no good treatment for it. Just as insulin resistance in the liver leads to the development of type 2 diabetes, so too does insulin resistance in the brain lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. When the brain cannot receive the primary fuel source (glucose), signs of mental decline begin.
The human brain is operating at its most efficient in an effective state of ketosis, which is increasingly being examined by researchers as a viable means of addressing—and possibly preventing or reversing—premature cognitive decline, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s. It is well understood by neurologists that dietary fat in the absence of sugar and starch is enormously stabilizing to the human brain and nervous system, potentially even enhancing cerebral blood flow by a whopping 39 percent!
– Nora Gedgaudas
There is a strong theoretical basis for putting a patient with Alzheimer’s on a low-carb, high-fat diet as a means for preventing the further progression of AD because the inflammation caused by gluten, carbohydrates, and high blood glucose levels has been associated with the development of this disease. Additionally, ketone bodies are readily taken in by the brain as an alternative fuel source when glucose is not present.
In fact, the idea of delivering ketones instead of glucose to the brain to treat dementia-related diseases has led to the development of a new medical food called Axona. A randomized, controlled clinical trial showed that over a period of ninety days, increased blood ketone levels led to a slight improvement in brain function in patients with dementia, which, without treatment, almost invariably leads to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Dr. Mary Newport knows a thing or two about Alzheimer’s disease. Her husband, Steve, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of fifty-one, and she quickly became frustrated by the lack of meaningful therapies to help slow its progression, much less reverse the damage that had already been done. But when Dr. Newport started feeding Steve large amounts of coconut and MCT oil while cutting out carbohydrate-based foods like bread, rice, and pasta, he started to “climb out of the Alzheimer’s abyss.” She shares the details of Steve’s miraculous turnaround in her book Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure?
Dr. Newport’s experience isn’t isolated. She has heard from hundreds of caregivers whose Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia patients have found varying levels of improvements following the same protocol that she did. Some of these patients have been stable for upwards of four years because they found success in ketosis.
Thanks to a grant from a private foundation, a clinical study is already underway at the University of South Florida to examine the impact of coconut oil–induced ketosis on Alzheimer’s. Results from this study could help further the efficacy of the ketogenic diet in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.