New research(1) has discovered a potential new way to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease: by using medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects memory, thinking, and behavior, and is the most common cause of dementia. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, and treatment options are limited.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 50 million people worldwide have dementia, with Alzheimer's disease being the most common cause of dementia. In the United States alone, it is estimated that more than 6 million people are living with Alzheimer's disease, and this number is projected to increase to nearly 14 million by 2050. Alzheimer's not only affects the person living with the disease but also their family members and caregivers, making it a significant public health concern.
Scientists have found that in preclinical Alzheimer's disease, the brain gradually becomes insulin resistant. This means that the brain cannot effectively use glucose, which is its primary source of energy. As a result, there is a cellular energy deficit that leads to the accumulation of free radicals, which increases inflammation and damages neurons.
However, ketone bodies, which are synthesized from fats, can offer an alternative energy source for the insulin-resistant brain. MCFA supplements, which are preferentially metabolized into ketone bodies, can potentially supply the brain with energy.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 studies, researchers found that MCFA supplementation led to a significant increase in blood ketone body levels. This increase in ketone bodies resulted in increased brain energy metabolism. While cognition outcomes varied across studies, with some showing no improvement and others showing improvement, further research is needed to determine if MCFA-mediated increase in brain energy metabolism can improve cognition.
So, what does this all mean for the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer's disease? It means that there may be a new potential avenue for treatment that focuses on providing the brain with an alternative energy source. While more research is needed, this discovery could lead to new and more effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease in the future.
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