Consuming ketones potentially protective against Alzheimer’s disease

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A ketone-supplemented diet may protect neurons from death during the progression of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

In the early development of Alzheimer's disease, the brain becomes overexcited, potentially through the loss of inhibitory, or GABAergic, interneurons that keep other neurons from signaling too much, the researchers said. Interneurons require more energy compared to other neurons, and therefore they may be more susceptible to dying when they encounter the Alzheimer's disease protein amyloid beta.

Amyloid beta has been shown to damage mitochondria, the metabolic engine for cells, by interfering with deacetylase sirtuin 3 (SIRT3), a protein that preserves mitochondrial functions and protects neurons, according to researchers.

For the study, the research team genetically altered levels of SIRT3 in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease by feeding mice either a ketone ester-rich diet or a control diet. They found that mice with low levels of SIRT3 experienced a much higher mortality rate, more violent seizures, and increased interneuron death compared to the mice from the standard Alzheimer's disease model and control mice. However, the mice with reduced levels of SIRT3 experienced fewer seizures and were less likely to die when they ate a diet rich in ketones, a specific type of fatty acid. The diet also increased levels of SIRT3 in the mice.

Though further studies are required, the researchers said increasing SIRT3 levels via ketone consumption may be a way to protect interneurons and delay the progression of Alzheimer's disease.