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Can Brain Utilize Ketones?

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How To Use The Ketogenic Diet For Productivity And Mental Performance

Beginning in the 1920’s, the ketogenic diet, or “keto” diet — which involves eating mostly fat and protein as an energy source with low intake of carbohydrates — has been used by many for weight loss and in helping patients with diabetes or epilepsy. But there’s another less-talked about benefit of this diet: ketosis for mental performance. If you’re experiencing brain fog, lack of productivity, or poor mental performance, ketosis might be a solution for you. We’ll go over some of the ways ketosis can have a positive effect on cognition and may help you be more productive throughout your day. KETOSIS FOR MENTAL PERFORMANCE First, let’s start with a little refresher around ketosis and energy. The basis of the ketogenic diet is that it uses specially designed macronutrient balance to get a certain response from the body. Those on the keto diet eat normal amounts of protein, higher amounts of fat than the average person, and they keep their carbohydrate intake very low, less than 50 grams per day. When carb intake is this low, it triggers a response in the body that is similar to how it would act during starvation. Instead of simply utilizing glucose, the primary sou Continue reading >>

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  1. Megalomania192

    I recently heard that humans are the only animals that can use ketone bodies (B-hydroxybutyrate) to fuel their brains and I was wondering if this was true. Are other primates capable of doing this? If yes, which ones? In either case, is there any understanding of when this mutation appeared in humans/primates? It seems like the ability to maintain mental acuity in a fasted/starved state would certainly be a useful at whatever point in our history we became meat eating hunters.

  2. danby

    No, humans are not the only the only animals that use ketone bodies.
    Ketone bodies are a normal metabolite within lipolysis, ketogenesis and ketosis (burning fats from your fat tissue) and a great deal of what we know about lipid (fat) metabolism was derived from rat and mouse experiments. So at the very least ketones as fuel existed in the joint ancestor of all mammals, millions and millions of years before the first primates existed.
    But it likely goes back much further.
    Consider also that when many animals sleep they make use of their fat stores to maintain energy homeostasis. Pretty much all animals with nervous systems engage in sleep or a sleep-like process. So lipolysis and ketone utilisation likely goes back at least as far as the joint ancestor of all chordate animals. And it likely goes back even further than that as lipid metabolism in toto is a key pillar of keeping cells functioning
    Here's a paper from 1979 on ketone body metabolism in fish
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1161766/
    Here's one from 2006 on ketone and glucose metabolism in the honey bee vs fruit flies and mosquitos
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1847477/
    Edit: As I'd not previously considered animals other than the ones I covered in my undergraduate degree, here are some other references I've found for other animals
    2015: Fruitfly brains can metabolise fatty acids directly (where ketones would be a metabolic intermediate) http://www.nature.com/articles/srep07805
    1976: Ruminants like sheep don't use ketone bodies in their brain https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1309065/

  3. Megalomania192

    Consider also that when many animals sleep they make use of their fat stores to maintain energy homeostasis. Pretty much all animals with nervous systems engage in sleep or a sleep-like process.
    This just me think about hibernating mammals and how they obviously must be able to use it to fuel the brain. I probably should have noticed that myself.
    Thanks!

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