By Joshua Nicholson
Alzheimer’s is currently listed as the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States and amounts to a total cost of over $100 billion a year in medication and care. However, a new treatment for the disease is currently in the trial stages.
In a scientific community full of genetic discoveries, National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientist Richard Veech feels that the solution is in studies related to diet. Potential treatments lie in a physiological state known as ketosis.
Veech plans to use ketone bodies as a therapy against Alzheimer’s disease. He has demonstrated their abilities to overcome the accumulation of amyloid peptides, amongst other benefits. Amyloid peptides play a major role in inhibiting necessary enzymes in proper brain function.
Alzheimer’s—20 to 30 percent of the time—originates from genetic defect. The other 70 to 80 percent results from a variety of different factors, such as a decrease in brain metabolism, a resistance to insulin, or mild trauma.
UC Santa Cruz Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Anthony Fink said, “It is unlikely to slow or reverse the progress of the disease, but it could have some symptomatic benefits.”
Richard Strohman, professor emeritus of molecular biology at UC Berkeley, however, feels differently.
“While Dr. Fink may be correct,” Strohman said. “I feel that the recent research of Veech and by many other groups provides strong biochemical evidence that ketosis is the answer awaiting only clinical trials.”
Strohman continued, “Sooner or later money will talk, and instead of being in genetic dialogue it will be in the real testing of large groups of selected individuals.”
Ketosis however has been, and still is, commonly thought to be detrimental as it is often confused with ketoacidosis.
Ketoacidosis is a pathological state characterized by a drop in blood pH below 7.2 and an increase in free fatty acids and ketone levels to around 25 millimolar.
In an e-mail to City on a Hill Press (CHP), Veech described this confusion as historical. He explained how ketoacidosis, prior to the discovery of insulin in 1922, lead to a mortality rate of 50 to 100 percent in diabetics. The clinicians, attributing the deaths wrongly, were unaware that a decrease in insulin was what caused ketoacidosis. The fear of elevated levels of ketone bodies in ketosis and ketoacidosis, has since persisted in clinicians.
It was seen as harmful over the generations, but under the microscope of science, health benefits are being revealed.