Effect of a ketogenic meal on cognitive function in elderly adults: potential for cognitive enhancement

Abstract

Rationale

Glucose is the principal energy substrate for the brain, although ketone bodies are an effective alternative. Evidence suggests that elevation of plasma ketone body levels through oral intake of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) may improve cognitive function.

Objectives

We tried to examine the possible effects of a ketogenic meal serving on cognition in elderly non-demented subjects.

Methods

Subjects were 19 non-demented elderly adults over 60 years old (13 females; mean age: 66.1 ± 2.9 years) who underwent neurocognitive tests 90 and 180 min after oral intake of a ketogenic meal (Ketonformula®) containing 20 g of MCTs and an isocaloric placebo meal without MCTs on separate days.

Results

Elevation of plasma ketone concentration after intake of a single ketogenic meal containing 20 g of MCTs was confirmed (all p < 0.001). As for cognition, improvements were observed in the digit span test, Trail-Making Test B, and the global score (Z = −2.4, p = 0.017) following the ketogenic meal and the change in the executive functioning score was positively correlated with that of the plasma β-hydroxybutyrate level. The cognition-enhancing effect was observed predominantly for individuals who had a relatively low global score at baseline (Z = −2.8, p = 0.005), compared to individuals with a high global score (Z = −0.7, p = 0.51).

Conclusions

Plasma levels of ketone bodies were successfully increased after intake of the ketogenic meal. The ketogenic meal was suggested to have positive effects on working memory, visual attention, and task switching in non-demented elderly.

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Acknowlegments

This study was funded by a research grant from Ryoshoku, the Food Science Institute Foundation, Japan.

Disclosure

K.A., T.T., and H.T. are employees of Meiji Co., Ltd., and Meiji817-B, the ketogenic meal used in the study, was provided by the company.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Miho Ota.

Ethics declarations

This study was performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and approved by the ethics committee of the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Japan.

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Ota, M., Matsuo, J., Ishida, I. et al. Effect of a ketogenic meal on cognitive function in elderly adults: potential for cognitive enhancement. Psychopharmacology 233, 3797–3802 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-016-4414-7

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Keywords

  • β-hydroxybutyrate
  • Cognition
  • Elderly
  • Ketogenic meal
  • Medium chain triglycerides