Parkinson’s disease results from the deterioration of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. The cause of this deterioration is not known. Early symptoms of Parkinson’s include shaking, rigid motions and moving slowly. Advanced symptoms can include difficulty walking, dementia, emotional problems and depression.
The drugs currently available to treat Parkinson’s disease lose their effectiveness over time and can cause undesirable side effects.
A small clinical study of seven volunteers with Parkinson’s agreed to maintain a ketogenic diet for one month. Five had improvement in their post-diet test scores. Although this study did not include a control group, it has brought attention to the potential role of ketogenic diet therapy in this disease.
Nutritionist Beth Zupec-Kania assisted an elderly man whose Parkinson’s disease had progressed and was no longer responding to medication. After two weeks on ketogenic therapy his wife reported “his night terrors and freezing have greatly abated”. Unfortunately, he found the diet too difficult and did not maintain it and his conditioned worsened.
Why would the ketogenic diet provide benefit in people with Parkinson’s? Scientist theorize possible ways that ketosis may be the answer. Ketone bodies may bypass the pathway in the brain that is disrupted and support other vital energy pathways. Ketone bodies been shown in animal studies to mend neurons. Ketogenic diets have also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain.
Ever since the ketogenic diet was established as a treatment for epilepsy, scientists have been delving deeper into its effect on the brain and how it may benefit other neurological conditions. The common denominator in these studies is the change in metabolism caused by ketosis.
Further research on ketogenic therapies is needed to advance this potentially beneficial therapy for Parkison’s disease.