Researchers know that certain lifestyle factors, including poor diet and obesity, can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found that following a Mediterranean-style ketogenic diet may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Although researchers don’t yet know the exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease, they do know that certain lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, can increase the risk of developing the disease. Researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine (US) have found that people who follow a Mediterranean-style ketogenic diet, rather than a low-fat, high-carb diet, may reduce their risk of developing the disease. Alzheimers. The study was recently published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

What is a Mediterranean ketogenic diet?

The Mediterranean and ketogenic diets, often shortened to “keto,” have both been around for quite some time. Previous research shows that the Mediterranean diet may help slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Other research has shown that the ketogenic diet may offer a new way to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet is based on foods traditionally eaten in the Mediterranean region, especially in the countries of Greece and Italy. This diet emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, legumes, olive oil and a limited amount of red meat. Processed foods, sweets and sugary drinks should be avoided.

The keto diet emphasizes eating healthy fats and decreasing carbohydrate intake. The preferred foods on the ketogenic diet are animal protein, non-starchy vegetables, dairy products, oils, and butter. The Mediterranean ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat, normal-protein diet in which fat and protein come primarily from healthy sources such as olive oil, fish, and poultry.

What is the impact of diet on the risk of Alzheimer’s?

Previous studies have indicated that diet may be a powerful modulator of brain health. Diets that include high levels of saturated fats, sugars, and processed foods have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in studies of large populations. Conversely, Mediterranean diets high in fruits and vegetables and healthy fats are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

These studies, however, only looked at associations, so the researchers decided to look at the effects of an intervention on diet, which can help determine whether diet can lead to changes in brain health.

Mediterranean ketogenic diet versus low-fat, high-carb diet

For this study, Dr. Craft and his team conducted a randomized study with 20 adults with prediabetes. Nine of them had previously been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and 11 had normal cognition. Participants were randomly asked to follow either the Mediterranean keto diet or a low-fat, high-carb diet for 6 weeks. They then went through a 6 week elimination period and switched to the other diet they hadn’t been on before for another 6 weeks.

After analysis, researchers found that participants with MCI who followed the Mediterranean keto diet had lower levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and GABA-producing microbes. GABA is a chemical that helps brain cells communicate. GABA modulates brain activity to reach appropriate levels. In people with Alzheimer’s disease, GABA does not work effectively. Balancing GABA can therefore help regulate brain activity and improve brain function. Additionally, the research team found that participants with MCI who consumed curcumin – a compound found in turmeric – had lower levels of bacteria containing bile salt hydrolase.

Adults with MCI who consumed curcumin had lower levels of a substance (BSH) linked to intestinal motility, which is the time it takes for food and waste to move through the gut. Lower intestinal motility can allow the intestine to be exposed to pathological substances longer and amplify the negative effects.
This is a small pilot study to demonstrate whether a ketogenic diet can benefit adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Based on these positive results, the researchers are in the process of conducting a larger study that will confirm our findings and determine whether this approach should be considered as a therapeutic strategy to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease. This larger study will be completed within a year.

Effective non-drug interventions

This research also correlates with another recent study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, which showed that non-drug interventions for Alzheimer’s disease were both effective and cost-effective. The four non-drug interventions included home care, advice from an outpatient clinic, individual care plans, and an adult day care service with face-to-face support.

The Brown University researchers used a computer simulation to model the outcomes if people with Alzheimer’s disease used one of four non-drug interventions. The scientists used data from Medicare, clinical trials and national surveys of families of people with dementia.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that the four non-drug interventions reduced nursing home admissions and improved quality of life.

Focus on anti-inflammatory foods

The reason this study might be beneficial is because it focuses on anti-inflammatory fats and foods, which are part of the disease process of Alzheimer’s disease.
Elevated blood sugar is a significant risk, and this study looked at people with prediabetes, not a metabolically healthy population. (A low-carb diet has the added benefit of potentially lowering blood sugar and insulin.

When it comes to using a person’s diet to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease, complex carbohydrates are the go-to foods. Some of them are low in carbohydrates, such as non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, berries. And less refined carbs, like sugar and highly processed grain foods, snack foods.

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