Consuming a ketogenic diet — high levels of fat and low levels of carbohydrate — can help prevent cognitive decline, according to a new study on mice.
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat difficult-to-control epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates.
The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, showed that the stomach and the brain are more closely connected than we once thought, and in fact the health of one can affect the other.
“Recent science has suggested that neurovascular integrity might be regulated by the bacteria in the gut, so we set out to see whether the ketogenic diet enhanced brain vascular function and reduced neurodegeneration risk in young healthy mice,” said Ai-Ling Lin from the University of Kentucky in the US.
“Neurovascular integrity, including cerebral blood flow and blood-brain barrier function, plays a major role in cognitive ability,” Lin added.
For the study, the team examined the effect of diet on cognitive health on mice, which followed a ketogenic diet regimen.
Two groups of nine mice, aged 12-14 weeks, were given either the ketogenic diet or a regular diet. The team found that after 16 weeks, mice on ketogenic diet had significant increase in cerebral blood flow, improved balance in the microbiome in the gut, lower blood glucose levels and body weight, and a beneficial increase in the process that clears amyloid-beta from the brain — a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
“While diet modifications, the ketogenic diet in particular, has demonstrated effectiveness in treating certain diseases, we chose to test healthy young mice using diet as a potential preventative measure,” Lin said.
“We were delighted to see that we might indeed be able to use diet to mitigate risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” Lin noted.