Like millions of people in this country and around the world, my 61-year-old husband, Steve, suffers from the nightmare that is Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia in the United States. Many other people suffer from Parkinson's disease and less common forms of dementia and neurodegenerative conditions. These diseases take their toll not only on the victim but on their loved ones as well. No matter how young or old a person is at the onset of these diseases, the diagnosis is a devastating, life-altering blow. The future, once rosy and full of promise, takes on a different set of colors, bleak and gray.
How sad and cruel is the disease process known as dementia, that so many people finish out their lives without memories of what they have accomplished, unable to recognize the people they loved and who loved them, and finally unable to remember how to perform the simplest physical maneuver such as standing up and sitting down. How sad and cruel that people have to watch their beloved spouse or parent slowly slip away in this manner, and then worry that they will suffer the same fate.
Presently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. After decades of study and many billions of dollars spent on research, the causes of Alzheimer's disease are still mostly unknown, and pharmaceutical companies have yet to find a treatment that will stop, much less reverse, its downward spiral.
A recent campaign by a national Alzheimer's organization pronounced that this disease "has no survivors," a message intended, no doubt, to promote contributions for research, but also a message that conveys a sense of hopelessness to the very real people and their families who are dealing with Alzheimer's disease now. In March 2009, Steve and I attended a conference presented by this organization in Washington, D.C., where they proudly announced the "good news" that a cure is on the horizon, probably within five years. This was not good news to us and to the many others who are dealing with this disease in the here and now. This was the same message we had heard five years prior when Steve was in the early stages of this disease. At that time, we were so very hopeful that, if he took his special medications to "slow the decline of the disease," he would survive in a meaningful way, long enough to enjoy the benefits of the promised cure.
When you are a relatively young couple such as us, it is quite a shock when it becomes apparent that we will not get to enjoy the golden years of retirement that most people look forward to. Like many others contending with the disease, we often talk about the fact that, if Steve could just stay the way he is now, we could still live with this disease. The cold reality is that neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, are relentless, and hope fades with each passing year until it is finally extinguished. We cannot wait five more years, because we don't have five more years.
This book is about ketones -- tiny molecules of organic fuel that have been around since the beginning of life on this planet and have insured our survival as a species. These are molecules of hope for those suffering from Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain diseases. A drinkable form of ketones can be made now in the National Institutes of Health lab of Richard Veech, M.D., D. Phil., a world-renowned researcher who has been working with ketones for decades. But it will take substantial money and several years of clinical trials after the money comes through to be available to the millions who need this. Sadly, competition is fierce for research dollars, and the money to mass-produce this ketone ester has not come through as of this writing. As it often does, politics has gotten in the way of true progress.
My primary goal in writing this book is to draw attention to the existence of ketone ester, get the mass production of ketone ester funded, and get clinical trials of ketone ester on the fast track toward Food and Drug Administration approval. I hope this book will increase awareness in such a way that the powers-that-be can no longer overlook ketone ester and will be pushed to fund its production. I also hope that an explosion of ketone research will occur. For those dealing with dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases, this cannot happen soon enough.
We need this miracle now, but it is not here yet. While we are waiting, we can take advantage of a metabolic miracle that occurs in our bodies when we eat certain foods that contain medium-chain fatty acids. These fats found primarily in coconut and palm kernel oils are converted in the liver to ketones, which can be used by the brain and most other organs as fuel. The levels of ketones we can expect from consuming these fats are relatively low compared to the lab-made ketone ester; however, many people can expect a reprieve from the downward spiral of this disease. This reprieve may come in the form of improved memory, a return of personality and sense of humor, greater social interaction, resumption of daily activities, and/or relief from certain physical symptoms. These effects are very real and very meaningful, not only to the people suffering from the disease, but also to their caregivers and other loved ones who are suffering with them.