What day of the week is it? What is your bank account password? If you are often forgetful and your memory is deteriorating, beware of dementia. However, research has shown that the right approach can improve dementia and make the mind work better.
The most commonly recognized early sign of dementia
An early symptom of dementia is forgetfulness. People in the early stages of dementia can often experience the following situations:
- Often they cannot find their keys or glasses.
- Suddenly can’t remember what they are doing.
- I can’t remember what year it is, what day of the week it is, or their bank account passwords
- Gradually unable to call people by their name.
- Forgetting if they just took their medication or what they ate with their last meal.
According to Dr. Chun-Hsu Chen, director of Dr. Chen Natural Health Center (DCNHC), the incubation period of dementia is about 15 years. When dementia first starts, it is actually undetectable. However, patients gradually notice a decline in their memory, after which others begin to notice a decline in their memory.
It’s easy to confuse dementia with amnesia, but while memory loss doesn’t get worse, dementia is an ongoing deterioration.
Insulin resistance may be the first sign
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a devastating neurodegenerative disease. The cause of dementia is associated with the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain and the formation of neurofibrillary tangles in neurons by the microtubule-associated protein tau.
However, a review in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggests that before the appearance of these proteins, neuronal cells in the brain had already become hypometabolic and lost the ability to absorb and metabolize glucose.
This is a phenomenon of insulin resistance that prevents blood glucose from entering cranial nerve cells, said Dr. chen. Without energy, these cells begin to atrophy and produce amyloid plaques. As a result, more and more cranial nerve cells will atrophy and undergo apoptosis, making the brain’s function worse and worse. For this reason, Alzheimer’s disease is also known as “type 3 diabetes”.
The brain has insulin receptors and some functions of the nervous system are regulated by insulin. Suzanne de la Monte, a neuropathologist at Brown University, wrote in her research that insulin resistance and insulin deficiency are key to cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain’s use of glucose is already reduced by 45 percent.
Reversing dementia can be achieved through the ketogenic diet
Can dementia be reversed? Before we get into this topic, let’s talk about diabetes first.
dr. Chen runs his own camp teaching a group of diabetics how to properly implement a ketogenic diet.
“After three to four days, their blood sugar levels are back to normal,” said Dr. chen. The patients’ previous abnormal sleep pattern of wanting to sleep in the afternoon while having insomnia at night is also improving.
dr. Chen went on to point out that the ketogenic diet can reverse diabetes and dementia. After adopting the ketogenic diet, some dementia patients started calling their relatives by name, not getting lost, and getting better mentally.
While heavy metals, environmental pollution, stress and other factors can cause the atrophy of cranial nerve cells, blood sugar is a direct and immediate cause. Therefore, to address the problem of insulin resistance, the body’s energy source must be changed from glucose to ketone bodies.
In general, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the body’s source of energy.
If there is not enough glucose in the body, the body will break down fat and produce ketone bodies for use.
A ketogenic diet means you eat only a small amount of carbohydrates and consume a large amount of fat, so instead of burning glucose, the body now burns fat to turn it into ketone bodies. And the ketone bodies become the body’s main source of energy.
“When the brain’s energy source changes from glucose to ketone bodies, the person will wake up,” said Dr. Chen, “People often believe that brain cells need glucose, but in fact, the brain loves ketone bodies most, and glucose comes second.”
He explained that in terms of energy used by the brain, glucose is preferred over ketone bodies. However, when glucose is burned, free radicals are produced. And when glucose enters the brain cells, it needs the help of insulin and cannot move in and out freely.
In contrast, ketone bodies can freely enter and exit the brain cells by diffusion, so it is more efficient for the body to use. In addition, ketone bodies do not produce free radicals after combustion, only water and carbon dioxide.
Many studies have been done on the effects of the ketogenic diet on dementia. A small-scale study conducted in New Zealand in 2021 found that people with dementia who followed a ketogenic diet for 12 weeks had improved daily functioning and quality of life compared to those on a low-fat, regular diet.
Also in 2021, a review in the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology found that adopting a ketogenic diet to intervene in dementia is beneficial and may slow its progression.
A review in the International Journal of Molecular Science further suggests that a ketogenic diet can improve cognitive performance in elderly patients with dementia, and that the best results are obtained when the ketogenic diet is used in the early stages of dementia.
The right ketogenic diet can raise blood ketones to a certain level
The ketogenic diet consists of a high amount of fat (80 percent to 90 percent), some protein (15 percent) and a very small amount of carbohydrates (2 percent to 5 percent). Carbohydrate intake is greatly reduced. Carbohydrates include starchy rice, pasta, fruits containing fructose and/or sucrose, and milk with lactose.
dr. Chen pointed out that daily net carbohydrate intake should be limited to 20 to 30 grams. In his camp, the participants were put on a strict ketogenic diet, with net carbs limited to 20 grams.
Therefore, when people implement the ketogenic diet themselves, everything they eat must be weighed and converted into basic nutrients, in order to count the amount of net carbohydrates, proteins and fats these foods contain. In the beginning, it is difficult for people to convert food into nutrients, but conversion software and apps are available. Usually it takes two weeks of serious execution for someone to become proficient.
If you can implement a ketogenic diet thoroughly, you can see results in about a week. However, in patients with severe dementia, it will take some time for them to slowly get better; and whether or not they can return to normal depends on the state of their brain atrophy.
“A lot of people end up with poor or no results because they don’t know how to count what they eat and so while they think they’re on a ketogenic diet, they actually aren’t,” said Dr. chen.
How do you know if you’re doing the ketogenic diet correctly? You can use a blood ketone meter to check your ketone levels.
- Blood ketone level below 0.5 mmol/L: Ketogenic diet is not performed properly.
- Blood ketone level between 0.5 and 3.0 mmol/L: The correct method is used and a successful implementation should achieve a blood ketone level of at least 0.5 mmol/L.
- People who do not follow a ketogenic diet generally have a ketone level in the blood between 0 and 0.1 mmol/L, maximum 0.2 mmol/L.
Can coconut oil and fasting replace the ketogenic diet?
In addition to the ketogenic diet, it is relatively easy to replace the daily fats and oils with coconut oil, about 30 to 40 grams per day.
dr. Chen explained that coconut oil is high in medium-chain fatty acids, which can be quickly “cut open” and converted into short-chain fatty acids and then ketone bodies.
In a 2019 study on ketones and dementia, subjects were given a direct supplement of medium-chain fatty acids. Six months later, the subjects showed improvements in memory, language skills and executive ability.
The benefit of using coconut oil is that you can have a regular diet without the strict carb restriction of a ketogenic diet, while getting a little bit of the benefits of a ketogenic diet to help your brain function.
In addition, intermittent fasting can be used. As long as the body is hungry during certain periods, it will also consume body fat and produce ketone bodies.
However, people cannot fast for a long time, so the effect will also be limited, just like using coconut oil will have a limited effect.
What should we pay attention to when implementing a ketogenic diet?
Many people follow a ketogenic diet primarily to lose weight, but they use the wrong approach, which causes many problems such as muscle loss and a decreased metabolism.
In fact, the ketogenic diet was first developed for the treatment of epilepsy in children, where ketone bodies can suppress abnormal brain discharges to achieve the goal of treating epilepsy. In recent years, more and more research has shown that the ketogenic diet may have a neuroprotective effect and could be used in the treatment of dementia.
However, the ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet, and some people with dementia are at risk for agitation, slightly elevated cholesterol, gastrointestinal discomfort, and malnutrition after adopting the ketogenic diet.
dr. Chen pointed out that when patients take the ketogenic diet, they may experience side effects such as mineral loss and cramping.
In general, however, there is no significant risk.
It is important to note that the general public may not be able to follow the ketogenic diet correctly and people with dementia may not be able to fully cooperate with the diet, so it can be a bit of a challenge to follow this diet at home.
In addition, type 1 diabetes and people with end-stage type 2 diabetes cannot consume the ketogenic diet, as they are otherwise prone to ketoacidosis.
Nevertheless, patients in the early and middle stages of diabetes are well suited to the ketogenic diet and only need to pay attention to the dosage of their hypoglycemic medications to avoid hypoglycemia.
Epoch Health articles are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for individualized medical advice. Consult a trusted professional for personalized medical advice, diagnoses and treatment. Do you have a question? Email us at AskADoctor@epochtimes.nyc