Stephen Cunnane, PhD: The Potential of Ketogenic Diets for Brain Energy Rescue


The professor from the Universite de Sherbrooke discusses the logistical hardships of trying to prescribe a diet as a method of treatment.

“Scientifically, I think it is an effective approach. It's a question of the practical elements and the logistics of it that that make it very challenging.”

Brain energy rescue is emerging as a promising strategy to early combat neurodegenerative disorders before significant impairment occurs. It is achieved by providing the brain more ketones to metabolize when brain glucose metabolism decreases as an effect of these disorders.1

Stephen C. Cunnane, PhD, Research Center on Aging, Universite de Sherbrooke, recently published a paper with colleagues that demonstrated the use of a ketogenic drink to achieve brain energy rescue. The study demonstrated significant improvements in cognition in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with the use of a ketogenic medium chain triglyceride (kMCT) drink.2

NeurologyLive spoke with Cunnane to learn more about the potential of ketogenic diets and supplements in brain energy rescue to slow down the progression of MCI to Alzheimer Disease (AD). Cunnane discussed the scientific merits of a ketogenic diet while also pointing out the logistic issues of prescribing diets as a treatment. He also touched on concerns of saturated fat and cardiovascular complications, which were not observed in study participants after 6 months of consuming the ketogenic drink.

1. Cunnane SC, Trushina E, Morland C, et al. Brain energy rescue: an emerging therapeutic concept for neurodegenerative disorders of ageing. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2020;19:609-633. doi: 10.1038/s41573-020-0072-x
2.Fortier M, Castellano CA, St-Pierre V, et. al. A ketogenic drink improves cognition in mild cognitive impairment: Results of a 6-month RCT. Alzheimer’s Dement. Published online Oct 26, 2020. DOI: 10.1002/alz.12206
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