More on Alzheimer’s and Ketogenic Therapy

It was last April when I pointed to a study suggesting that Alzheimer's might be linked to the whole sugar-insulin deal. That is: refined carbs and sugar, again.

I pointed to this post at The IF Life in last weekend's roundup, but here it is again for reference. This adds an interesting twist, in identifying an inflammatory omega-6 fat, arachidonic acid, as a potential culprit. And all this leads to speculation and hypotheses, now, that Alzheimer's is actually a kind of third type of diabetes.

Now scientists at Northwestern University have discovered why brain insulin signaling — crucial for memory formation — would stop working in Alzheimer's disease. They have shown that a toxic protein found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer's removes insulin receptors from nerve cells, rendering those neurons insulin resistant. (The protein, known to attack memory-forming synapses, is called an ADDL for "amyloid ß-derived diffusible ligand.")

With other research showing that levels of brain insulin and its related receptors are lower in individuals with Alzheimer's disease, the Northwestern study sheds light on the emerging idea of Alzheimer's being a "type 3" diabetes.

As Mike O'Donnell says:

Insulin and inflammation do run hand in hand. So could it be that insulin is the prime controlling agent for whether brain will function properly or not? Insulin will also drive more inflammatory markers, like the release of more AA (as seen above).

So, years of sugar and other high-refined-carb abuse, and if you don't get type 2, perhaps you'll get "type 3" diabetes  and lose your mind.

To further complicate matters and confuse you, I picked up these bits of info in a comment thread. Doctor treats her own husband with a particular kind of oil and he demonstrates remarkable improvement in his Alzheimer's. Now, before you begin wondering if this doctor is a chiropractor and that the treatment amounts to hocus pocus, it's not.

The evening before the first screening, Dr. Newport stayed up late researching both drugs. During that research she discovered a third that had shown unbelievable results — actual memory improvement.

"Most drugs talk about slowing the progression of the disease … but you never hear the word 'improvement.' Right then I knew I had to find out more," she said.

She began vigorously researching online and uncovered the new medication's patent application. She found an in-depth discussion of its primary ingredient, an oil composed of medium chain triglycerides known as MCT oil.

In Alzheimer's disease, certain brain cells may have difficulty metabolizing glucose, the brain's principal source of energy. Without fuel, these precious neurons may begin to die. But researchers have identified an alternative energy source for brain cells — fats known as ketone bodies, explained Dr. Theodore VanItallie, a medical doctor and professor emeritus at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City. He has been researching ketones for more than 35 years.

So, can you guess which of our favorite oils is loaded with medium chain triglycerides (MCT)? Yessiree: coconut oil, at a whopping 60%. You can go to the article to see in photos and read about the marked improvement. For the purposes of this post, we'll focus on why.

"Ketones are a high-energy fuel that nourish the brain," VanItallie said, explaining that when you are starving, the body produces ketones naturally. When digested, the liver converts MCT oil into ketones. In the first few weeks of life, ketones provide about 25 percent of the energy newborn babies need to survive.

So, essentially, by taking something that metabolizes directly to ketones, you get the same effect as, what? A low carbohydrate diet (free of sugar, grains, processed carb junk "food") and/or fasting, something we've been recommending as healthful all along. Are you seeing how all this stuff keeps coming full circle, all tied together?

There's more info for you in-depth sorts here and here. I also might mention that I just stumbled on the recently published results of yet another study demonstrating the healthful benefits of severely restricting carbohydrate.

Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean diet: a healthy cardiovascular diet for weight loss.

There was an extremely significant (p<0.0001) reduction in body weight (108.62 kg-> 94.48 kg), body mass index (36.46 kg/m2->31.76 kg/m2), systolic blood pressure (125.71 mmHg->109.05 mmHg), diastolic blood pressure (84.52 mmHg-> 75.24 mmHg), total cholesterol (208.24 mg/dl->186.62 mg/dl), triacylglicerols (218.67 mg/dl->113.90 mg/dl) and glucose (109.81 mg/dl-> 93.33 mg/dl). There was a significant (p=0.0167) reduction in LDLc (114.52 mg/dl->105.95 mg/dl) and an extremely significant increase in HDLc (50.10 mg/dl->54.57 mg/dl). The most affected parameter was the triacylglicerols (47.91% of reduction).

Wow! A 31-pound average weight loss. The study was conducted on 31 obese individuals, and was unrestricted in calories. The reason for the "Mediterranean" bit is that it used olive oil as its chief source of fat, fish as its chief source of protein, and it included red whine. It's not how they eat in the Mediterranean, of course, but I guess this is the way its going to be in order to prove the efficacy and healthfulness of ketogenic diets — placate the fatophobs with olive oil and breathy whisperings of Tuscany. Whatever.

The other full-circle element here is that a natural, paleo-like diet without processed foods will, depending on specific composition, deliver an omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of about 2:1 or LESS. That is, no more than twice the amount of omega-3 in the form of omega-6. Well, due to modern vegetable oils, the ratio for Americans is on average 17:1. Very soon I will reference some information suggesting that this may be causing all sorts of trouble, including behavior problems in children.


  1. Suzanne on November 5, 2008 at 16:14

    Umm.. What exactly is this supposed to mean?

    "Now, before you begin wondering if this doctor is a chiropractor and that the treatment amounts to hocus pocus, it's not."

  2. Richard Nikoley on November 5, 2008 at 17:34


    I probably should have clarified, as I have in other posts in the past, that I have obtained substantial benefit from chiropractors from time to time for neck problems. I was referring to some of the quackery I see coming out of the profession, from some.

    Incidentally, since I began brief but intense resistance training 18 months ago I have not had a single recurrence. Prior to that, it was about 2-3 times per year, usually upon waking up in the morning, having done something to my neck whilst sleeping.

  3. Chris on November 5, 2008 at 23:31

    Great post Richard

  4. Suzanne on November 6, 2008 at 14:54

    I am curious, what type of quackery are you talking about?

  5. Richard Nikoley on November 6, 2008 at 15:01

    Going back years, I've had various people tell me (chiropractors and some of their patients) that things like the common cold can be cured through chiropractic, stuff like that.

  6. Suzanne on November 6, 2008 at 15:18

    Ok, so I went back to read your post on April 28, 2008 about chiropractic and quakery..

    Let me ask you this…

    What controls the function of everything in your body, including your immune function?

  7. Richard Nikoley on November 6, 2008 at 15:21

    Listen, Suzanne: I'm not interested in games.

    Make your case, but stop with your question-bating games.

    Chiropractic cures colds? Make your case. Show the evidence.

  8. Brian Dickey (The Low Carb Junkie) on November 15, 2008 at 02:46

    Great Post, I would think that with everything we know about low carb and ketogenic diets that people would wake up and start eating a little healthier. The funny thing is that all of it seems so common sense, I'm often confused about why there is even a debate on the subject.

  9. Pam Maltzman on November 16, 2008 at 21:18

    I am going to speak up here in the defense of chiropractors… I have back and neck problems, including a possibly broken tailbone when I was a kid, and several lower back sprains, and I have gotten very good relief from chiropractors over the years (I'm 55 now). They even can adjust my wrists, allowing me to type faster and with better coordination.

    There are, of course, bad apples in every profession. MD's and their ilk are no exceptions.

    Frankly, I'm also a fan of alternative medicine. There's a lot of cancer in my blood relatives. I'm hoping to avoid it myself; but if I can't, then I'm going to treat myself with alternative medicine rather than the "orthodox" gauntlet of cut-drug-and-burn.

  10. Pam Maltzman on November 16, 2008 at 21:20

    Barry Sears has also gotten good results with Alzheimer's patients with his pharmaceutical-dose fish oil. See his book, I think it's "The Omega Prescription." (Have to look it up.)

    Oral and/or intravenous chelation therapy is said to help Alzheimer's patients too, not only with cardiac and vascular problems.

  11. Richard Nikoley on November 17, 2008 at 08:51


    I think that your experiences with chiropractic are common, and I have been helped too.

    I might do a post on it, sometime, but I was Googling around and there seems to be a lot of unsubstantiated wackiness out there.

    I'm not going to throw the bay out with the bathwater when it comes to modern medicine. I think medical problems should be approached from numerous angles, modern biochemistry being one of them. I recognize that even with the best of nutrition and health practices, shit still happens and our bodies may not be up to the task w/ nutrition alone. In that case, I'm all over the drugs, if necessary.

    That said, we have gone way, WAY overboard with the idea that it's normal to be on a dozen prescription medications by the age of 65 or 70. I once had a grandmother on probably more than a dozen and at one point a doctor finally just took her off EVERYTHING and she improved immediately.

  12. Pam Maltzman on November 17, 2008 at 22:25

    Richard, in doing medical transcription, quite frequently I type up reports for elderly people (especially those in nursing homes) who are on literally dozens of medications. I just have to wonder if all of those are necessary.

    I'm not throwing the baby out with the bathwater… however, as documented in Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories, a lot of what passes for modern medicine nowadays is sheer fad and not good biochemistry at all.

    I'm not saying that chiropractic will cure everything out there… but it's awfully good at doing what it's supposed to do.

    I get the impression that medical school is really an exclusive trade school with a lot of hoops to jump through–before, during, and afterwards. Witness all the licensing requirements. Witness how easily someone who thinks outside the box (such as if they're sympathetic to alternative medicine) can lose his license.

    Witness the process of getting prescription drugs. You must pay someone for an office visit in order to get a slip of paper which gives you the privilege of buying certain substances.

    I make my living doing transcription for doctors, but I'm less than thrilled with the way things are. It's not a truly freemarket system.

    Yeah, I'm all for biochemistry… but all too frequently, doctors aren't as up on biochemistry as one would hope.

  13. […] let's connect more dots. Here's a reasonably substantial post I did last November on Alzheimer's and ketogenic therapy. If you read that, you may complain that this post is mostly review, and you'd be right. But […]

  14. chiropractic coaches on September 6, 2009 at 20:28


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.