“However, the good news is that we may be able to prevent or reverse these effects with diet … by exchanging glucose for ketones as fuel for neurons,” she added in the study, which is published in PNAS.
“We think that, as people get older, their brains start to lose the ability to metabolize glucose efficiently, causing neurons to slowly starve, and brain networks to destabilize,” said Mujica-Parodi. “So we tested whether giving the brain a more efficient fuel source, in the form of ketones, either by following a low-carb diet or drinking ketone supplements, could provide the brain with greater energy. Even in younger individuals, this added energy further stabilized brain networks.”
A ketogenic diet is one high in fats and proteins, and low in carbohydrates, forcing the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Primarily used to treat some forms of epilepsy in children, it is also believed that it has the potential to help other neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Katy Stubbs, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the research was “very interesting” but needed more investigation. “The ketogenic diet has risks of its own,” she said. “It has been shown that eating such high levels of fat, which generally goes with people eating less fruit and vegetables, has a detrimental impact on your heart, which has dangerous side effects.
“Also, there is a huge amount of evidence showing that the Mediterranean diet is the best diet we’ve got so far for brain and heart,” she added. “That includes a lot of whole grains. We’re going to need a lot more research if the ketogenic diet is going to be widely recommended as an alternative to that approach as prevention against dementia.”