Aging is inevitable. As we hope to blow 100 candles in our lives, we sometimes shelve the challenges that come with age to the back of our minds. But the truth is as we age, we experience hearing loss, cognitive decline, immobility, dementia, and our brain health deteriorate. The thought of not being able to recognize your loved ones is scary. But isn’t that the price we have to pay for long life?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by depression and impaired cognitive function. To reduce the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease, scientists are looking into a keto diet to promote the health of your aging brain cells.
Fats may be the enemy of our enemy, turn ally! How? A ketogenic diet is low in carbs which is advantageous considering neurons lose their ability of glucose metabolism with age. Fat metabolism produces ketone bodies, the brain’s secondary fuel source. Let’s dive into today’s class: Ketosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Why The Focus On Ketosis and Alzheimer’s Disease?
In 2022, Alzheimer’s Association reported that 60 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and the number is projected to be 13 million in 2050. There are 6.5 million seniors above 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease, and 73% of them are above 75.
Alzheimer’s disease and other mild cognitive impairments kill one in 3 seniors, which is more than breast and prostate cancer combined. Since 2000, the number of people that have died from Alzheimer’s disease has doubled, while that of heart disease has decreased. For this reason, it is paramount to understand the effects of ketosis on Alzheimer’s disease.
What Are The Risk Factors Of Alzheimer’s Disease
With age, many body processes slow down, including brain functional decline. This could lead to mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia.
Among adults aged 60 and above,41.5% of them are obese putting them at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Obesity is a predisposing factor for Alzheimer’s disease because obese individuals have a high concentration of free circulating leptin, unlike their counterparts whose leptin is bound to its soluble receptor. Leptin is released by the adipose tissue and is distributed proportionally to the body fat mass.
Leptin is an appetite control hormone, meaning it regulates food intake. when your adipose tissue increase, your leptin levels increase to increase satiety and suppress appetite. Other than this it plays a role in memory, growth, and immune control. This hormone increases cell insulin sensitivity lowers insulin secretion and increases glucose metabolism and storage.
Insulin resistance is common in obesity. Although the levels of leptin are high in obese individuals, they develop leptin resistance over time. The assumed cause is the inability to transport leptin across the Blood brain barrier (BBB) since obesity promotes pathways of cellular leptin resistance.
Obesity has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease through compromising long-term potential and synaptic plasticity, reduced brain volume, and impaired cognitive function. It also promotes mild inflammation of adipose tissues that messes with the homeostatic systems, developing neurodegenerative diseases.
Another aspect of obesity and the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease is gut microbiota. Obesity leads to the imbalance of gut microbiota leading to changes in physiological patterns. This shift can cause cognitive functional decline due to gut-brain axis alteration. A good pre- and pro-biotic can restore this imbalance.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is one of the risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease. High blood glucose levels are signs of insulin resistance. Increased blood sugar levels cause inflammations which may damage brain cells.
Ketoacidosis is also a complication that may arise in diabetics. Understanding ketosis and Alzheimer’s disease will help investigate the effects of ketones on memory loss.
In addition, Type 2 diabetes predisposes individuals to cardiovascular diseases, stroke and hypertension which damages blood vessels. Damaged blood vessels in the brain could cause moderate alzheimer’s disease.
Genetic risk factors
Genes that increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease are referred to as risk genes. Those that guarantee you will develop Alzheimer’s disease are deterministic genes. The apolipoprotein E (APOE) is the gene associated with developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The gene comes in three forms: APOE e2, APOE e4, and APOE e3. Inheriting one or two of these genes doesn’t mean you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. This is proof that genes are risk factors, but not the cause of neurodegenerative diseases.
Other Risk Factors
More risk factors that increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease include head injuries, heart-head connection, metabolic disorders, and high blood pressure.
Why The Ketogenic Diet Intervention?
The questions running through your mind are, how can a ketogenic diet prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease? What is the relationship between ketosis and Alzheimer’s disease? It’s a pretty interesting concept.
What is a ketogenic diet? A low carbohydrate and high-fat diet. In ketogenic diets, the daily caloric intake is 2000 calories, 165g of fat (70-80%), 40g of carbs (5-10%), and 75g of proteins (10-20%). Ketogenic diets are the complete opposites of diets we have been advised for years to consume to improve cardiovascular health. The Mediterranean DASH diet (story for another day) reduces the risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease.Ketogenic diets also eliminate most fruits and all high-carb vegetables.
Fat Metabolism For Brain Health
Why is a ketogenic diet intervention a feasible plan to promote brain health? Can ketosis help alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease? Our brains use glucose as fuel, but in its absence, they can use ketone bodies as a secondary fuel source. Ketosis is the process of breaking down fats in the absence of glucose. Ketone bodies are produced in the liver from fatty acids metabolism from dietary fats or body fat.
How can your body enter a state of ketosis? You can fast. Depriving your body of food will mean denying it of glucose and forcing it to break down fats in storage. The other way is to eat a ketogenic diet, which is high in fats. Finally, you can achieve ketosis by consuming medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oils.
Dietary ketosis reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by enhancing memory, weight loss, improves brain function, appetite suppression, increases good cholesterol, and reduced risks of developing chronic diseases.
Isn’t a low-carb diet dangerous for the brain you ask? No, your liver can produce the little amount of glucose that your brain needs, you don’t have to get it from your diet. So you can reap the benefits of ketosis on Alzheimer’s disease without any worry.
Your liver can produce glucose through gluconeogenesis, the process of catabolizing non-carbohydrate foods to generate glucose. So with a ketogenic diet, your liver can breakdown lactate, glucogenic amino acids and glycerol to form plasma glucose.
How Does A Ketogenic Diet Enhance Cognitive Performance?
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the build-up of proteins in and around the cells of the brain. The protein amyloid plaques around brain cells while the protein tau deposits within the cells tangling in the brain.
With age, the hippocampus (part of the brain responsible for memory) slows down and the neurons become hypometabolic, losing their glucose uptake and metabolism ability. The neurons lose their communication with each other and there is no longer protein detoxification.
Hypometabolism is caused by:
Insulin regulates glucose metabolism, but when cells lose sensitivity, glucose uptake is impaired. When cells are insulin resistant, cells are starved of energy. This leads to the development of Type 2 diabetes which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Almost two-thirds of AD patients are women. Why is this the case? Estrogen helps in glucose uptake and controls mitochondrial function. During menopause, the level of estrogen drops, causing hypometabolism. Hypometabolism leads to reduced cognitive performance. Ketogenic diets and menopause are a match made in heaven!
Studies That Prove Efficiency of Ketosis on Alzheimer’s Disease
Many studies refer to Alzheimer’s disease as ‘Type 3 Diabetes’. This is because brain glucose metabolism caused by hypometabolism caused reduced amounts of insulin for burning sugars.
In a study on participants with Alzheimer’s disease on medium chain triglycerides supplemented ketogenic diet for 3 months, the results reported were using ketogenic diets to prevent mild Alzheimer’s disease was feasible. This is because brain neurons will choose ketone bodies over glucose. Ketogenic diet intervention reduces insulin and causes the oxidation of fatty acids. The advantage of this is that although glucose metabolism reduces in adult neurological disorders, ketone bodies metabolism does not.
Other clinical trials carried out on mice models with Alzheimer’s disease showed that dietary ketone ester improved memory and learning and on analysis, the mice exhibited reduced amyloid-β peptide and hyperphosphorylated tau deposition in the hippocampus. Ketogenic diets reduce the deposition of amyloid plaques.
Hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins reduces mitochondrial metabolism of glucose in AD patients causing reduced brain energy metabolism. Reduced mitochondrial function translates to oxidative injury, reducing oxidative phosphorylation and resulting in an impaired mitochondrial transport chain.
In addition, the study showed that the ketogenic diet intervention improved the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by reducing anxiety and mood disorders.
Brain inflammation in regions responsible for memory and learning is a factor that promotes the development of neurodegenerative disorders. Oxidative stress leads to the production of inflammatory cytokines and inhibition of neutrophils causing brain tissue damage.
Some clinical trials on rats have reported that ketogenic diets had neuroprotective effects on neurological disorders by increasing the production of neurotrophic factors. Ketogenic diets’ neuroprotective mechanism is through increased production of cytokines in the hippocampus protecting neurons from reactive oxygen species that lead to cognitive impairment and cognitive decline.
More Efficient Way Of Triggering Ketosis
Our current lifestyle is filled with high-fat foods with concentrated trans and saturated fats. Despite ketogenic diets being high fat, be careful what type of fatty acids you are consuming. Most long-chain fatty acids that are unsaturated are found in fish, meats, and nut oils. Before demonizing fats, let’s understand the types of fat and their roles in our bodies. Too much of everything is poisonous and that goes for saturated fatty acids too.
Any fats manufactured in industries and not naturally occurring is bad for our bodies. Highly processed foods like sweets, baked products, and junk foods are filled with trans fatty acids that raise cholesterol levels and increase the risks of developing heart problems. Oils with MCTs like coconut oil, dairy products, and palm oil are better oils to use in your keto diet.
Since it may be challenging to choose healthy fats for the keto diet, you can try another method of inducing ketosis to promote the brain metabolism of ketone bodies to prevent developing mild Alzheimer’s disease.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil supplements have been discovered to be a good source of alternative fuel (ketone bodies) for energy metabolism before the onset of neurological diseases.
A study on ad patients proved that ketogenic medium chain triglycerides improved cognitive function in mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Consumption of ketogenic medium chain triglycerides (kMTC) drinks promoted brain metabolism of ketone bodies since it provided the brain with more of its preferred fuel. There was no change in brain glucose metabolism on the kMTC.
In addition, increased ketone metabolism positively impacted cognitive symptoms like memory and learning. The results of this study provided feasibility and efficacy data on the convenience of MCT supplementation over dietary ketogenic diet restrictions to increase brain fuel metabolism.
Ketogenic MCT supplements can provide enough ketones to improve brain energy metabolism and promote brain health. It is an efficient method of preventing neurodegenerative disorders before cells of the brain start dying.
A ketogenic diet has been proven to help reduce the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease by improving mild cognitive impairment. Consider incorporating delicious keto recipes into your diet to pump ketones to fuel your brain. I hope this was a good read and that it will help you answer your questions on ketosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
The best part is if you have any other questions, you can drop them in the comment section, and we will be sure to answer them. Also, if you are a senior or a caregiver to one and try ketogenic diets, be sure to tell us what effects the diet had and if there was any improvement in cognitive function.