Modified Atkins diet may boost cognitive performance in older adults

Eating a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet has been found to moderately improve cognitive performance in some dieters, a new study reveals. The research focused on older adults who were experiencing a decrease in memory and brain function that the researchers described as 'suggestive of early Alzheimer's disease.'

The findings come from Johns Hopkins Medicine, where researchers conducted a pilot study involving 14 adults; the team explains that it was hard finding enough participants who were willing to spend three months on a strict eating protocol.

Talking about the diet, the team described their study as involving a 'modified' Atkins-style diet, meaning it contained very low amounts of carbohydrates, but higher fat levels. When compared to participants who consumed a low-fat diet, the team found that study participants had small, but ultimately 'measurable' improvements when taking standardized tests.

The study confirmed that eating a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet can have a positive impact on cognition in adults who may be in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Past research has found the brains of individuals in this early stage of the disease are less capable of using glucose, the brain's primary fuel source.

When someone consumes a very low carbohydrate diet and makes up for the lack of carbs by consuming extra fat, their body adapts to use ketones as an alternative source of energy. Based on their tests, the researchers found that participants who had the highest levels of ketones in their urine also had 'significant improvements' in memory.

Additional research into the matter is necessary and researchers caution that the findings don't prove eating a keto diet will put the brakes on the cognitive impairment caused by early Alzheimer's disease. However, it does indicate that cutting carbs adequately enough to enter ketosis may be beneficial for these impacted adults.