Study tests ketogenic diet for Parkinson’s
Can a special high-fat diet help people with Parkinson’s disease?
Although researchers haven’t found a cure for the degenerative disease, they’ve found ways to slow its progression — from medication to exercise such as boxing.
This year, scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke are studying the effects of a specific diet on Parkinson’s patients.
It’s called a ketogenic diet — a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet in which the body, deprived of carbohydrates, is forced to burn fat. While people on the diet must avoid pasta, bread and sugar, they can eat plenty of butter, cream and nuts.
“It’s a diet that has less carbohydrates and greater fats than a typical American diet,” said Dr. Debra Ehrlich, Chief, NIH Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and the study’s principal investigator.
“We’re trying to look at using the ketogenic diet in a population of patients with Parkinson’s disease,” Ehrlich said. Several previous studies of the ketogenic diet in Parkinson’s patients have shown either improved motor functioning or improved memory or cognition.
“Our first objective is to see if it’s feasible and well tolerated in patients with Parkinson’s. Our second objective is to see if there’s any improvement in Parkinson’s symptoms, such as cognition, mobility and motor function.”
Includes one-week hospital stay
The four-week study is open to people 50 and older who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It requires two outpatient visits to NIH’s Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and one inpatient hospital visit for seven days.
Once enrolled, people will visit NIH’s campus in Bethesda for a four-hour screening appointment, where they will fill out surveys, get a physical examination, give a blood sample and take a 10-foot walking test.
During the week-long hospital stay, participants will be divided randomly into two groups. One group will receive ketogenic meals and a special oil supplement; the other group will eat low-fat meals. While in the hospital, all patients will meet with a nutritionist.
“They’ll receive coaching from our nutrition team,” Ehrlich said, and nutritionists will try to “work [participants’] own dietary preferences into the diet.”
At home, participants will follow the prescribed diet for two weeks, logging their physical activities. Finally, they’ll visit NIH again for a four-hour follow-up visit. Compensation may be available.
“We’re always looking for new things that can improve the function of people with Parkinson’s,” Ehrlich said. “This is a way to see if a particular diet might offer some clinical benefits.”
For more information or to enroll, call 1-800-411-1222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.