The Impact of ‘Ketogenic’ Diets on Alzheimer’s Risk

The Impact of ‘Ketogenic’ Diets on Alzheimer’s Risk

Alzheimer’s risk is influenced by a variety of factors, one of which is the composition of gut bacteria. It is no surprise then that our diets may play a role in this as well. A recent study has discovered that a chemical found in ‘ketogenic’ diets, which are low in carbohydrates and high in proteins and fats, can potentially delay the early stages of Alzheimer’s-related memory loss in mice. This type of memory loss is similar to the mild cognitive impairment seen in individuals prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Role of Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB)

The key discovery made by researchers at the University of California, Davis (UCD) is centered around the molecule beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), which is elevated by the ketogenic diet. The study found that BHB is abundant in biological pathways associated with memory and brain plasticity. According to biochemist Gino Cortopassi from UCD, the data suggests that the ketogenic diet, and specifically BHB, can delay mild cognitive impairment and possibly stave off full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.

While the ketogenic diet has been primarily associated with weight loss and other health advantages, this study sheds light on its potential benefits for brain health. By altering the body’s metabolism to rely on ketones for energy instead of glucose, the ketogenic diet can keep cognitive functions sharp, particularly as individuals age. The increase in BHB produced by this diet was found to enhance synaptic function, which in turn improves memory in cases of mild cognitive impairment.

Despite the promising findings regarding the effects of ketogenic diets on Alzheimer’s risk, there are still uncertainties and risks associated with high levels of ketones in the body. Scientists are cautious about recommending keto diets for the general population, especially over the long term. While the results of this study are intriguing, it is important to consider the potential health implications of drastically altering one’s diet.

Gender Disparities and Alzheimer’s Risk

An interesting observation from the study is that female mice exhibited higher levels of BHB production from the keto diet and appeared to benefit more from it. This raises questions about the role of gender in Alzheimer’s risk, particularly in individuals carrying the ApoE4 gene variant. Understanding these gender disparities could provide valuable insights into developing targeted interventions for Alzheimer’s prevention in at-risk populations.

The study highlights the potential of ketogenic diets, specifically the increase in BHB, in mitigating Alzheimer’s risk by improving brain function and memory. While more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects and risks associated with this type of diet, these findings open up new possibilities for exploring dietary interventions in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. By gaining a deeper understanding of how diet impacts brain health, we may be able to develop more targeted approaches to combatting cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.


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