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Ketogenic Diet May Prevent ALS Progression

April 18, 2006

The Mount Sinai School of Medicine study suggests a ketogenic diet high in calories may prevent the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The study, which appeared in the April 3rd (2006) issue of BMC Neuroscience is the first study to draw correlations between diet and neurodegeneration (the progression of ALS).

”The findings assert the significance of certain high caloric dietary intake in the prevention of ALS. In view of any available therapeutic application for the disease, this new evidence might bring hope to those affected.”, said Giulio Maria Pasinetti, MD, PHD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Director of the Neuroinflammation Research Center at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM) and lead author of the study.

The cause of neurodegeneration in ALS is unclear. The study researchers say mitochondrial dysfunction plays an important role in the degeneration of motor neurons. Ketones promote mitochondrial energy production and membrane stabilization. Mitochondiral membrane dysfunction, loss of oxidative stress control, generation of excessive free radicals, neurofilament accumulation, and excitotoxicity are all implicated in the onset of ALS.

About the MSSM Ketogenic Diet Study

MSSM investigators used a mouse model to examine the affects of a ketogenic diet (KD) on the progression of ALS. ALS mice were fed a high caloric ketogenic diet (KD). Motor performance, longevity, and motor neuron counts were measured in treated and diseased mice (both groups).

The study looked at how mitochondrial dysfunction plays a central role in neuronal cell death in ALS, the effect that the principal ketone body DBH has on mitochondrial ATP generation and neuroprotection.

Blood ketones were more than 3.5 times higher in ketogenic diet (KD) fed animals compared to controls. Ketogenic diet fed mice lost 50% of baseline motor performance 25 days later than the disease controls. The interaction between diet and change in weight was significant; KD mice weighed 4.6 grams more than the disease control group at study endpoint. In spinal cord sections obtained at the study endpoint, there were more motor neurons in KD fed animals.

MSSM Study Conclusions

This is the first study showing that diet, specifically a high caloric ketogenic diet may slow the progression of the clinical, and biological manifestations of ALS in a mouse model. This may be due to the ability of ketone bodies to promote ATP synthesis and bypass inhibition of complex I in the mitochondrial respiratory chain.

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