Medium-chain fatty acids for the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer's disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Nutrition Reviews


Oxford Academic


School of Medical and Health Sciences




Castro, C. B., Dias, C. B., Hillebrandt, H., Sohrabi, H. R., Chatterjee, P., Shah, T. M., ... & Martins, R. N. (2023). Medium-chain fatty acids for the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition Reviews, 81(9), 1144–1162.


Context: In preclinical Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the brain gradually becomes insulin resistant. As a result, brain glucose utilization is compromised, causing a cellular energy deficit that leads to the accumulation of free radicals, which increases inflammation and damages neurons. When glucose utilization is impaired, ketone bodies offer an alternative energy source. Ketone bodies are synthesized from fats, obtained from either the diet or adipose tissue. Dietary medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which are preferentially metabolized into ketone bodies, have the potential to supply the insulin-resistant brain with energy. Objective: This systematic review and meta-analysis aims to review the effect of MCFA supplements on circulating ketone bodies and cognition in individuals with subjective cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment, and AD. Data Sources: A comprehensive search of electronic databases was performed on August 12, 2019, to retrieve all publications meeting the inclusion criteria. Alerts were then set to identify any publications after the search date up until January 31, 2021. Data Extraction: Data were extracted by 2 authors and assessed by a third. In total, 410 publications were identified, of which 16 (n = 17 studies) met the inclusion criteria. Data Analysis: All studies assessing change in levels of blood ketone bodies due to MCFA supplementation (n = 12) reported a significant increase. Cognition outcomes (measured in 13 studies), however, varied, ranging from no improvement (n = 4 studies) to improvement (n = 8 studies) or improvement only in apolipoprotein E allele 4 (APOE ε4) noncarriers (n = 2 studies). One study reported an increase in regional cerebral blood flow in APOE ε4 noncarriers and another reported an increase in energy metabolism in the brain. Conclusion: MCFA supplementation increases circulating ketone body levels, resulting in increased brain energy metabolism. Further research is required to determine whether this MCFA-mediated increase in brain energy metabolism improves cognition. Systematic Review Registration: PROSPERO registration number CRD42019146967



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