A 12-week ketogenic diet alleviated cognitive symptoms and anxiety in participants with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Because ketogenic diets cause the brain to use ketone bodies instead of glucose for fuel, they are sometimes used to alleviate neurological disorders such as PD.
This single-group pilot study assessed the role of a low carbohydrate/high fat ketogenic diet (LCHFKD) on PD symptoms, anxiety, depression, and general health biomarkers in 16 adults with PD. For 12 weeks, the participants followed a LCHFKD consisting of 1,750 calories per day (≈78% fat, 17% protein, 5% carbohydrate, and 11 grams of fiber).
The authors monitored participant compliance by assessing food logs (written food logs or MyfitnessPal data) and weekly fasting blood glucose and ketones. The participants received educational materials on the diet throughout the intervention.
At baseline and the end of the study, the authors assessed the following outcomes:
PD severity, via the United Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale Parts 1–4 (PDRS: I — mentation, behavior, and mood; II — activities of daily living; III — motor; IV — complications)
Anxiety, via the Parkinson's Anxiety Scale (PAS)
Depression, via the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale Revised-20 (CESD)
Blood markers (triglycerides, fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin, HbA1C, and C-reactive protein).
All 16 participants completed the 12-week intervention, but only 14 maintained a level of nutritional ketosis.
Poststudy scores on the UPDRS I and PAS improved, with no changes in the CESD or UPDRS II–IV. These results were the same when comparing participants who maintained nutritional ketosis to those who did not.
Body weight, waist circumference, fasting insulin, and HbA1C declined from the start of the study to its end. There were no changes in HDL-C, fasting glucose, triglycerides, or CRP.
Gastrointestinal distress, headaches, mood swings, irritability, and lower energy were the most notable adverse effects. Many of these subsided throughout the protocol.
It's unclear whether the study was designed to achieve weight loss or maintenance. The authors said that "a calorie-booster snack (if needed to stabilize weight) provided an extra 500 kcal…”. However, the authors did not explicitly state that the diet was designed to achieve weight stabilization or weight loss.
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