Ketogenic Drug Shows Promise in Early Clinical Trials for Alzheimer’s Disease

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the ketogenic diet, but unlike many other fads, this one may actually have the potential for real benefits. In a study published this week in Experimental Gerontology, researchers tested a recently-developed drug called caprylidene that can simulate the effects of the ketogenic diet.

A small cohort of sixteen Alzheimer’s disease patients was recruited for the study. Fourteen of them were randomly assigned to take caprylidene for 45 days, while the other two took a placebo. The researchers administered brains scans before and after the 45-day period to monitor any changes in the patients’ cerebral blood flow.

They found that most of the subjects who took the caprylidene had higher blood flow in several regions of the brain. This suggests that the drug enhanced the patients’ abilities to metabolize energy in these specific regions. However, the drug seemed to have no effect on patients who possessed the APOE4 allele, a genetic variant that is associated with a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

This small study provides some evidence in favor of the ketogenic diet as a possible treatment for neurodegeneration. As I’ve discussed in one of my previous articles (see Alzheimer’s and Coconut Oil: What does the science say?), the ketogenic diet is based on shifting your body’s primary energy source from carbohydrates to fats. When you deprive your body of glucose, this induces a state of “ketosis,” in which your liver begins breaking down fat stores to form another type of energy-storing molecule called ketones.

KETOSIS_HowItWorksInfographic

An overview of the ketogenic diet. Image Source

Recently, evidence began to emerge that suggested the ketogenic diet could be useful for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that the brains of Alzheimer’s patients have a harder time metabolizing glucose, which causes their neurons to be starved for energy. This has led some to suggest that by providing neurons with ketones, the ketogenic diet might allow the brain to access an alternative energy source and perhaps restore some function.

Those of you who have cared for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease may recognize that implementing a strict dietary plan like the ketogenic diet is next to impossible. This makes drugs like caprylidene, which induces ketosis artificially, a useful alternative.  While the small number of subjects used in this study is cause for caution, it suggests possible merit to this hypothesis and a need to replicate these intriguing findings with a larger sample size.

 

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4 thoughts on “Ketogenic Drug Shows Promise in Early Clinical Trials for Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. grandes marques

    Merely a smiling visitant here to share the love (:, btw great style. “The price one pays for pursuing a profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” by James Arthur Baldwin.

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  2. Anonymous

    How about all the studies on a whole food, plant based diet that continue to be ignored in the prevention of a number of diseases, many of which are related to cognitive impairment? Of course, no one can patent broccoli and this limits funding research dollars. Data from The China Study, though older, is worth considering when talking about prevention and slowing the progression of this horrible disease. Just my two cents.

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  3. Al

    Be careful: Everyone with a minimal knowledge of statistices will tell you that results of a study of 14 versus 2 subjects are basically determined by hazard, as the study will be underpowered for all but extremely strong effects.
    Running subgroup analyses (by ApoE status) in such a sample is even more bound to provide meaningless results.

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    1. AlzScience Post author

      I agree completely, this study by itself is definitely not enough to be thoroughly convincing. I’ll be interested to see if larger replications are able to find similar results.

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