Can a low carb diet help slow down Alzheimer’s disease?

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It is estimated that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affects about 50 million of people worldwide, and dementia is currently the fourth cause of death. This global estimate is even more disconcerting when considering the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, which leads to an estimate of 416 million of people affected worldwide, across the AD continuum, or 22% of all persons aged 50 and above (1).

Understanding how to prevent or slow down the development of Alzheimer’s disease is a critical step in taking care of our aging population. As researchers are looking for treatments and causes of AD, diet is appearing to have a significant impact on the disease. In particular, the ketogenic diet has revealed very promising effects on the cognitive abilities of patients with AD.

The ketogenic diet (KD) is a diet that severely limits carbohydrates, which in turns forces the body (and the brain) to rely on fats to produce energy. Sub-products of this metabolism are ketones, which can be measured in the blood or urine and indicate whether ketosis was actually achieved.

It is suspected that glucose transporters are altered in Alzheimer’s disease, leading to poorer brain metabolism and decreased cognitive abilities. The ketogenic diet, by providing an alternative source of energy, could provide a compensatory pathway by which the brain of AD patients could regain more functionality (2).

Several studies looked at the effects and potential benefits of the ketogenic diet on AD populations, and even though not all studies are reporting improvement, several did measure an increase in cognitive function in mild and moderate Alzheimer’s disease (2). However, the ketogenic diet can prove difficult to achieve and sustain, due to the severe restriction required in carbohydrates and the necessary increase in fats. It can even be dangerous for specific populations with abnormal fat metabolism, kidney dysfunction, osteoporosis or atherosclerosis (3). A specific type of ketogenic diet modified from Mediterranean diets supplemented with Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) can alleviate some of the difficulties encountered with KD (3).

Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash

Further studies are required to confirm those encouraging results and to delineate more precisely which elements of the ketogenic diet need to be present for the effects to be observed and maximized.

1: Gustavsson, A, Norton, N, Fast, T, et al. Global estimates on the number of persons across the Alzheimer’s disease continuum. Alzheimer’s Dement. 2023; 19: 658– 670.

2: Tabaie EA, Reddy AJ, Brahmbhatt H. A narrative review on the effects of a ketogenic diet on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. AIMS Public Health. 2021 Dec 22;9(1):185-193. doi: 10.3934/publichealth.2022014. PMID: 35071677; PMCID: PMC8755961.

3: Devranis P, Vassilopoulou Ε, Tsironis V, Sotiriadis PM, Chourdakis M, Aivaliotis M, Tsolaki M. Mediterranean Diet, Ketogenic Diet or MIND Diet for Aging Populations with Cognitive Decline: A Systematic Review. Life (Basel). 2023 Jan 6;13(1):173. doi: 10.3390/life13010173. PMID: 36676122; PMCID: PMC9866105.

Nonceliac wheat sensitivity: A new clinical entity

About 20 years ago I completed an internship in a small company specializing in the formulation of gluten-free bakery products for patients with celiac disease. At the time, celiac disease was pretty much unknown from the general population. Few people were affected, and few products existed to replace the staples of general diets that the affected individuals needed to avoid to remain symptom-free, such as bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, breakfast cereals, and all products containing (or made from) wheat, rye and barley.

Today, it is hard to escape discussions of intolerance to gluten. What happened? Did the frequency of the celiac disease suddenly skyrocket? Apart from an increased awareness of celiac disease per se, clinicians are starting to recognize the existence of another type of food intolerance triggered by wheat, namely nonceliac wheat sensitivity. Continue reading

Probiotics can help fight allergies

Mast cells are involved in allergy. Allergies ...

Mast cells are involved in allergy. Allergies such as pollen allergy are related to the antibody known as IgE. Like other antibodies, each IgE antibody is specific; one acts against oak pollen, another against ragweed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allergies, such as asthma, food allergies and eczema are a plague of our modern society, affecting between 20 and 30 percent of the population in western countries. The prevalence of those allergies has significantly increased in the past few decades, raising questions about the causes of such epidemics.

Continue reading

Being born in the US raises the risk of allergy

recent study published in JAMA Pedriatr. shows that children born outside the US have a lower prevalence of allergic disease that increases after residing in the US for ten years.

Jonathan I. Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH; Eric L. Simpson, MD, MCR; Helen G. Durkin, PhD; Rauno Joks, MD, Prevalence of Allergic Disease in Foreign-Born American Children, JAMA Pediatr. 2013;167(6):554-560. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.1319.

The study reports that “children born outside the United States have significantly lower prevalence of allergic disorders, including asthma, eczema, hay fever, and food allergies. However, the odds of developing allergic disease significantly increased after residing in the United States for one decade or longer.” Continue reading