The efficacy of ketogenic therapies in the clinical management of people with neurodegenerative disease: a systematic review

Lauren S. Dewsbury, Chai K. Lim, Genevieve Z. Steiner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Ketone bodies have potential disease-modifying activity that represent a novel therapeutic approach for neurodegenerative diseases (NDD). The aim of this systematic review was to summarize and evaluate the evidence for the application of ketogenic therapies (dietary or exogenous ketogenic agents) for NDD and provide recommendations for future research. Eight databases were electronically searched for articles reporting on controlled trials (≥4 wk duration) that induced ketosis or elevated serum ketone concentrations in people with NDD. Of 4498 records identified, 17 articles met the inclusion criteria with a total of 979 participants including studies on mild cognitive impairment (MCI; n = 6), multiple sclerosis (n = 4), Alzheimer's disease (n = 5), Parkinson's disease (n = 1), and MCI secondary to Parkinson's disease (n = 1). Of 17 studies, 7 were randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials. Most studies used dietary interventions (n = 9), followed by medium-chain triglycerides (n = 7) and a fasting protocol (n = 1). Generally, trials were 6 wk in duration and assessed cognition as the primary outcome. Studies were heterogeneous in type and severity of NDD, interventions used, and outcomes assessed. Overall, 3/17 studies carried a low risk of bias. Based on available evidence, exogenous ketogenic agents may be more feasible than dietary interventions in NDD from a compliance and adherence perspective; more research is required to confirm this. Recommendations for future research include improving exogenous formulations to reduce adverse effects, exploring interindividual factors affecting response-to-treatment, and establishing a “minimum required dose” for clinically meaningful improvements in disease-specific symptoms, such as cognition or motor function.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1571-1593
Number of pages23
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number4
Early online date23 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2021


  • ketones
  • neurodegenerative disease
  • cognition
  • neuroinflammation
  • systematic review


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