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Special Thanks to my team and Nicholas Norwitz – Oxford Ketone PhD Researcher and Harvard Med Student – for working diligently on research as well!
Is Keto More Effective for Seniors?
Big Picture Answer(s):
Keto may be more effective for seniors because they tend to be in poorer health and, therefore, have more benefits to gain. However, keto is also an excellent tool to maintain good health; so, it’s at least equally as important for younger people to adopt keto so that they can maintain their metabolic youth, despite an increasing chronological age.
Neurodegenerative Diseases (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s)
Aging is associated with a decrease in the brain’s ability to use glucose, as measured by FDG-PET scan. This is known to contribute to the development of neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease primarily strike people over the age of 65. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop the disease.
Newport M. et al. Alzheimer’s and Dementia 2015,
This is a case report of a 63-year-old man with Alzheimer disease. When he was put on a ketogenic diet, he exhibited a rapid improvement in mood, social ability, and memory. He also exhibited significant improvements on cognitive tests and his neurodegeneration stopped progressing.
Vanitallie T. et al. Neurology 2005,
In this feasibility study, 5 patients with Parkinson’s disease – the second most common and fastest growing neurodegenerative disease in the world – were put on a ketogenic diet for one month. By the end of the month, all participants exhibited a 20-80% improvement in their symptoms, as measured by the standard clinical test of Parkinson’s disease severity (UPDRS).
Insulin resistance is associated with age ( and underpins many chronic diseases, including diabetes and obesity.
Ebbling C. et al. British Medical Journal 2018,
In this study, 162 people were randomly split into three groups, a high-carb group, a medium-carb group, and a low carb group. The diets of all three groups were initially isocaloric, but were calorie adjusted over the 20-week study to maintain the participants’ body weights. Not only did the research find that eating lower carb increases energy expenditure, but they found that the effect was more pronounced in those who were initially more insulin resistant. For example, among those who completed the study, those who were insulin sensitive to start burned 135 more calories if they ate low carb as compared to high carb, whereas those who were insulin resistant to start burned 478 more calories if they ate low carb as compared to high carb. In short, low carb was beneficial for everyone, but the most beneficial for those who started out as more insulin resistant, likely because they had more ground to make up (and in the general population, insulin resistance can increase with age).
Mosconi L. et al. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2011,
Because elderly people will have accumulated more mitochondrial damage overtime, it’s especially important that they protect their mitochondria with a ketogenic diet. However, since mitochondria do have their own DNA and get passed directly from mother to child in the mother’s egg (the father’s sperm doesn’t donate mitochondria) the effects can be transgenerational! In the study linked above 36 cognitive normal healthy adults were compared with respect to their activity of the final complex in the electron transport chain (complex IV/COX). Complex IV/COX gets damaged in Alzheimer’s disease, so the hypothesis was that individuals with a maternal family history (MH) of Alzheimer’s disease would have a decrease in COX activity relative to individuals with no family history (NH) or a paternal family history (PH). As you can see, this is exactly what they found! These results are remarkable because they (1) follow on the well-established knowledge that mitochondrial damage accumulates with age and contributes to disease, (2) suggest that some of use may start off with slightly damaged mitochondria, so it’s important for everyone to manage mitochondrial health, and (3) suggest that the choices we make (if you’re a woman) when we are young before we have kids not only affect our health but the health of our future children!
Nicholas Norwitz – Oxford Ketone PhD Researcher and Harvard Med Student: