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Can Brain Utilize Ketones?

Ketosis In An Evolutionary Context

Ketosis In An Evolutionary Context

Humans are unique in their remarkable ability to enter ketosis. They’re also situated near the top of the food chain. Coincidence? During starvation, humans rapidly enter ketosis; they do this better than king penguins, and bears don’t do it at all. Starvation ketosis Humans maintain a high level of functionality during starvation. We can still hunt & plan; some would even argue it’s a more finely tuned state, cognitively. And that’s important, because if we became progressively weaker and slower, chances of acquiring food would rapidly decline. Perhaps this is why fasting bears just sleep most of the time: no ketones = no bueno..? Animals with a low brain/carcass weight ratio (ie, small brain) don’t need it. Babies and children have a higher brain/carcass weight ratio, so they develop ketosis more rapidly than adults. Is this a harmful process? No, more likely an evolutionary adaptation which supports the brain. The brain of newborn babies consumes a huge amount of total daily energy, and nearly half comes from ketones. A week or so later, even after the carbohydrate content of breast milk increases, they still don’t get “kicked out of ketosis” (Bourneres et al., 1986). If this were a harmful state, why would Nature have done this? …and all those anecdotes, like babies learn at incredibly rapid rates… coincidence? Maybe they’re myths. Maybe not. Ketosis in the animal kingdom Imagine a hibernating bear: huge adipose tissue but small brain fuel requirement relative to body size and total energy expenditure. No ketosis, because brain accounts for less than 5% of total metabolism. In adult humans, this is around 19-23%, and babies are much higher (eg, Cahill and Veech, 2003 & Hayes et al., 2012). For the rest of this article and more, head over to Pat Continue reading >>

The Fat-fueled Brain: Unnatural Or Advantageous?

The Fat-fueled Brain: Unnatural Or Advantageous?

Disclaimer: First things first. Please note that I am in no way endorsing nutritional ketosis as a supplement to, or a replacement for medication. As you’ll see below, data exploring the potential neuroprotective effects of ketosis are still scarce, and we don’t yet know the side effects of a long-term ketogenic diet. This post talks about the SCIENCE behind ketosis, and is not meant in any way as medical advice. The ketogenic diet is a nutritionist’s nightmare. High in saturated fat and VERY low in carbohydrates, “keto” is adopted by a growing population to paradoxically promote weight loss and mental well-being. Drinking coffee with butter? Eating a block of cream cheese? Little to no fruit? To the uninitiated, keto defies all common sense, inviting skeptics to wave it off as an unnatural “bacon-and-steak” fad diet. Yet versions of the ketogenic diet have been used to successfully treat drug-resistant epilepsy in children since the 1920s – potentially even back in the biblical ages. Emerging evidence from animal models and clinical trials suggest keto may be therapeutically used in many other neurological disorders, including head ache, neurodegenerative diseases, sleep disorders, bipolar disorder, autism and brain cancer. With no apparent side effects. Sound too good to be true? I feel ya! Where are these neuroprotective effects coming from? What’s going on in the brain on a ketogenic diet? Ketosis in a nutshell In essence, a ketogenic diet mimics starvation, allowing the body to go into a metabolic state called ketosis (key-tow-sis). Normally, human bodies are sugar-driven machines: ingested carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is mainly transported and used as energy or stored as glycogen in liver and muscle tissue. When deprived of d Continue reading >>

Mixed Brain Fuel – Q&a

Mixed Brain Fuel – Q&a

Question: On a ketogenic diet, how rapidly does the brain flip between glucose and ketones for fuel? Can it use both fuel sources simultaneously? Answer: The above question sort of encompasses a few different potential things and I’m not 100% sure which you’re asking so I’ll just cover them all. First realize that one fuel that the brain cannot use is fatty acids, at least not directly. This has led to the oft-stated belief that the brain can only use glucose. But this is incorrect as the brain has an alternative fat derived fuel which are ketones (or ketone bodies, the two major of which are beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetyl-acetate). Ketones are produced primarily in the liver (from the breakdown of fatty acids) and exist predominantly as an alternative fuel source for the brain (they can also be used by skeletal muscle) during periods of low-carbohydrate availability. This probably was originally important during periods of complete starvation; now very low-carbohydrate diets (defined here as any diet containing less than 100 grams per day of carbohydrates) effectively ‘exploit’ this mechanism. Now, on a carbohydrate based diet, the brain runs essentially on 100% glucose since ketones are generally not produced in significant amounts under those conditions (there are a couple of odd exceptions, one is following very long duration endurance exercise where a post-exercise ketosis can occur due to changes in fuel metabolism). So what happens when you remove most or all carbohydrates from the diet? Does the brain magically switch to using ketones? For the most part, no. Studies done way back when show that there is an adaptation phase that may last about 3 weeks while the brain ramps up its ability to use ketones for fuel. Even there, after that roughly 3 week pe Continue reading >>

Can Ketones Help Rescue Brain Fuel Supply In Later Life? Implications For Cognitive Health During Aging And The Treatment Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Can Ketones Help Rescue Brain Fuel Supply In Later Life? Implications For Cognitive Health During Aging And The Treatment Of Alzheimer’s Disease

1Research Center on Aging, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada 2Department of Medicine, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada 3Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada We propose that brain energy deficit is an important pre-symptomatic feature of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) that requires closer attention in the development of AD therapeutics. Our rationale is fourfold: (i) Glucose uptake is lower in the frontal cortex of people >65 years-old despite cognitive scores that are normal for age. (ii) The regional deficit in brain glucose uptake is present in adults <40 years-old who have genetic or lifestyle risk factors for AD but in whom cognitive decline has not yet started. Examples include young adult carriers of presenilin-1 or apolipoprotein E4, and young adults with mild insulin resistance or with a maternal family history of AD. (iii) Regional brain glucose uptake is impaired in AD and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but brain uptake of ketones (beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate), remains the same in AD and MCI as in cognitively healthy age-matched controls. These observations point to a brain fuel deficit which appears to be specific to glucose, precedes cognitive decline associated with AD, and becomes more severe as MCI progresses toward AD. Since glucose is the brain’s main fuel, we suggest that gradual brain glucose exhaustion is contributing significantly to the onset or progression of AD. (iv) Interventions that raise ketone availability to the brain improve cognitive outcomes in both MCI and AD as well as in acute experimental hypoglycemia. Ketones are the brain’s main alternative fuel to glucose and brain ketone uptake is still normal in MCI and in early AD, which would help explain why ketogenic i Continue reading >>

Does The Brain Function Better On Ketones (ketone Fuel) Or Glucose?

Does The Brain Function Better On Ketones (ketone Fuel) Or Glucose?

In some cases yes, and in others no. Li Xinran mentions epilepsy, but that may not be a good example for overall brain function, rather only an improvement of a tiny epileptogenic trigger locus. Let me also mention that membrane stabilization from fatty acids and cholesterol would not take place from direct supplementation of beta-hydroxybutyrate and beta-ketobutyrate. Those are carb substances delivered to the brain by the blood and used to generate energy. The brain's use of ketone fuels (sans acetone) can certainly augment the brain's energy. But this is not particularly significant in magnitude. The brain's use of glucose is not impaired by insulin resistance like other tissues. Bypassing glucose does not give the energy windfall to the brain that it does for heart, liver, kidney, lung and muscles, except for the brain's neuroendocrine glands that stick through the blood-brain barrier and do use the GLUT-4 glucose receptors that are impaired by insulin resistance. There is another potential brain-energy impairment when ketone fuels are derived from ketosis (wholesale beta-oxidation of fat) and not from some kind of IV or dietary supplementation. That is impairment of gluconeogenesis by inadequate substrate. When in ketosis, the body converts the glycerol (glycerine) from the triglyceride backbone into glucose. But the amount of glycerol from catabolized fat is relatively low, especially when measured by energy content. So the body also makes glucose from amino acids, which may not be in good supply. Catabolism of muscle protein to make glucose works, but only for a limited time, and with serious long-term consequences. One could eat more protein, and supplement amino acids, glycerine, fatty alcohols and small amounts of glucose/carb to offset this liability, but eve Continue reading >>

Ketone Body Metabolism

Ketone Body Metabolism

Ketone body metabolism includes ketone body synthesis (ketogenesis) and breakdown (ketolysis). When the body goes from the fed to the fasted state the liver switches from an organ of carbohydrate utilization and fatty acid synthesis to one of fatty acid oxidation and ketone body production. This metabolic switch is amplified in uncontrolled diabetes. In these states the fat-derived energy (ketone bodies) generated in the liver enter the blood stream and are used by other organs, such as the brain, heart, kidney cortex and skeletal muscle. Ketone bodies are particularly important for the brain which has no other substantial non-glucose-derived energy source. The two main ketone bodies are acetoacetate (AcAc) and 3-hydroxybutyrate (3HB) also referred to as β-hydroxybutyrate, with acetone the third, and least abundant. Ketone bodies are always present in the blood and their levels increase during fasting and prolonged exercise. After an over-night fast, ketone bodies supply 2–6% of the body's energy requirements, while they supply 30–40% of the energy needs after a 3-day fast. When they build up in the blood they spill over into the urine. The presence of elevated ketone bodies in the blood is termed ketosis and the presence of ketone bodies in the urine is called ketonuria. The body can also rid itself of acetone through the lungs which gives the breath a fruity odour. Diabetes is the most common pathological cause of elevated blood ketones. In diabetic ketoacidosis, high levels of ketone bodies are produced in response to low insulin levels and high levels of counter-regulatory hormones. Ketone bodies The term ‘ketone bodies’ refers to three molecules, acetoacetate (AcAc), 3-hydroxybutyrate (3HB) and acetone (Figure 1). 3HB is formed from the reduction of AcAc i Continue reading >>

Inverse Relationship Between Brain Glucose And Ketone Metabolism In Adults During Short-term Moderate Dietary Ketosis: A Dual Tracer Quantitative Positron Emission Tomography Study

Inverse Relationship Between Brain Glucose And Ketone Metabolism In Adults During Short-term Moderate Dietary Ketosis: A Dual Tracer Quantitative Positron Emission Tomography Study

Ketones (principally β-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate (AcAc)) are an important alternative fuel to glucose for the human brain, but their utilisation by the brain remains poorly understood. Our objective was to use positron emission tomography (PET) to assess the impact of diet-induced moderate ketosis on cerebral metabolic rate of acetoacetate (CMRa) and glucose (CMRglc) in healthy adults. Ten participants (35 ± 15 y) received a very high fat ketogenic diet (KD) (4.5:1; lipid:protein plus carbohydrates) for four days. CMRa and CMRglc were quantified by PET before and after the KD with the tracers, 11C-AcAc and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG), respectively. During the KD, plasma ketones increased 8-fold (p = 0.005) while plasma glucose decreased by 24% (p = 0.005). CMRa increased 6-fold (p = 0.005), whereas CMRglc decreased by 20% (p = 0.014) on the KD. Plasma ketones were positively correlated with CMRa (r = 0.93; p < 0.0001). After four days on the KD, CMRa represented 17% of whole brain energy requirements in healthy adults with a 2-fold difference across brain regions (12–24%). The CMR of ketones (AcAc and β-hydroxybutyrate combined) while on the KD was estimated to represent about 33% of brain energy requirements or approximately double the CMRa. Whether increased ketone availability raises CMR of ketones to the same extent in older people as observed here or in conditions in which chronic brain glucose hypometabolism is present remains to be determined. Continue reading >>

Ketogenic Diet Can Kickstart Weight Loss And Boost Brain Fitness

Ketogenic Diet Can Kickstart Weight Loss And Boost Brain Fitness

A ketogenic diet is an extreme nutritional intervention based on very low carbohydrate intake designed to mimic starvation and drive the body into ketosis, in which the body shifts from using glucose as its main fuel to using fat. While other low-carb diets like the Atkins and Paleo diets have also focused on carb restriction, the ketogenic diet is far more than the latest fad diet but rather one supported by strong research to improve health, energy, brain function, and weight loss. Although the ketogenic diet (KD) has been studied extensively for weight loss, promising research has shown a wide range of benefits in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzeheimer's disease. Promising research has shown that ketones may be neuroprotective, reducing the risk of cognitive decline while boosting memory, energy and mood. The KD provides antioxidant benefits that yield promise in treating cancer, and, in animal models, has been shown to confer longevity. The Science of the KD The goal of the ketogenic diet is to shift the body and brain to preferentially use ketone bodies formed by the mobilization of fat tissue as the fuel source instead of glucose. Ketone bodies such as acetoacetate and b-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) are formed by the body through ketogenesis and can be oxidized as a preferred energy source when energy is sparse as with fasting or high-intensity or prolonged endurance exercise. After three to four days of fasting, the mobilization of ketone bodies from fat stores produces the state of ketosis which can be a physiological response (with low glucose, low insulin) or can be pathological as in uncontrolled diabetes (with high glucose, low insulin). Ketogenesis is an evolutionary adaptation key to our survival in periods of famine to allow the body and brai Continue reading >>

What Are Ketones And Are They Healthy?

What Are Ketones And Are They Healthy?

What Are Ketones and Are They Healthy? If you are up on your health news or follow anyone in the health field, you have likely heard the term ketogenic diet. The goal of the ketogenic diet is to adapt the body to utilize fat as its primary fuel source instead of sugar. The body does this by first converting fat into what are called ketones that the cells can then burn as fuel. It is at this point that I typically get asked, what are ketones? In this article, I am going to clear up any gaps, explain exactly how ketogenisis works, and why it can be so beneficial for the human body. Biological Role of Ketones For our ancestors, eating three meals a day just wasn’t a thing. Instead they would hunt and forage for the foods they could find. When there wasn’t food, they wouldn’t eat. What this means is that sometimes they would go for days at a time with no food. To sustain life during times of scarcity, the body is thought to have developed the ability to utilize fat as an alternative fuel source. In a traditional nutrition course, you would learn that sugar is the body’s primary fuel source while fat is a secondary fuel source. When sugar stores are burned up, the cells then convert to burning fat as an energy source. What we are finding out now is that fat can actually be a healthier and more sustainable source of energy. Our Society Is Full of Sugar Burners Modern day, we have an abundance of food that is available to us at all times. Most of us regularly eat three meals a day with intermittent snacking in between. This kind of frequent eating, along with an overemphasis on carb-rich and sugary foods, causes a reduced ability to burn fat. As these foods damage our bodies on a metabolic level, we actually lose the ability to produce ketones. This type of reliance on Continue reading >>

The Ultimate Guide To Ketones And Ketosis

The Ultimate Guide To Ketones And Ketosis

Ketones and Ketosis are one of the hottest health trends right now and are rising in popularity - so what’s all the fuss about? Many people still don’t know what ketones are or why ketosis would be a desirable lifestyle, but as more and more people experience the benefits a ketogenic lifestyle can offer, the clearer it becomes. We’re here to help you sift through the facts and fallacies so you can understand what ketones and ketosis are and whether or not a ketogenic diet is right for you. We’ll start with the basics of what it means to be ketogenic or live in ketosis. Then you’ll get a break down of the best diet tips and recipes. BONUS: Access the FREE Ketosis Cheat sheet What are Ketones? Humans naturally get energy from glucose which is the result of broken down carbohydrates. Ketones are an alternative fuel source to glucose made by breaking down fats for energy as opposed to glucose. People who suffer from epilepsy, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers or even those who just have an aging brain tend to have dysfunctional glucose uptake in the brain. In fact, more and more research is providing evidence that these are diseases of lifestyle - brought on by insulin resistance and too many carbohydrates consumed over a lifetime. When the liver is in ketosis and is able to construct ketones from fatty acids for energy for the brain to function, our bodies are able to function for longer periods of time without needing to constantly be fed. Cognitive Benefits of Ketosis The benefits of following a ketogenic diet and using ketones for brain function aren’t restricted to those with an aging, epileptic, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer's brain. Even healthy people can drastically improve their brain function and overall health with ketones. The trend of high fat, low-carb diets Continue reading >>

Ketones To The Rescue Fashioning Therapies From An Adaptation To Starvation

Ketones To The Rescue Fashioning Therapies From An Adaptation To Starvation

Ben Harder In times of plenty, both the mind and the body thrive. But deprived of basic sustenance, the mind perishes before the body does. That's not New Age philosophy; it's basic metabolic chemistry. While most of the body manages food shortages with relative ease, the tissues of the brain are vulnerable during periods of scarcity. So when blood sugar dips, the brain must fall back on special biochemistry to meet its energy needs. From studying that metabolic back-up system, a coterie of scientists has drawn inspiration that could lead to a new treatment for conditions as diverse as epilepsy, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and heart failure. Most of the time, the body makes its fundamental fuel, glucose, from ingested carbohydrates. With each meal, the bloodstream gets replenished with glucose to replace the blood sugar that hungry cells have consumed to satisfy their metabolic needs. The body can't store glucose well, yet cells must be fed continually. So the body puts away extra energy in the form of fat, which it can break down into energy-supplying fatty acids when needed. A starving animal or a person with normal fat stores can thus sustain most of the body's cells for weeks or months without eating. But brain cells, even hungry ones, can't avail themselves of these emergency stores. A physiological barrier that blocks toxins in the bloodstream so they can't enter the delicate brain also keeps out fat and fatty acids. As a consequence, when glucose in the blood runs low, brain cells can run into trouble. People are uniquely vulnerable to such glucose starvation because of their disproportionate braininess. Although the brain makes up about 2 percent of a normal adult's weight, it commands roughly 20 percent of the body's resting metabolic budget. A condition fou Continue reading >>

Understanding Ketone Bodies And The Role Of Raspberry Ketones

Understanding Ketone Bodies And The Role Of Raspberry Ketones

Before we delve into what raspberry ketones are, and how they work, we feel it is important to understand that ketones aren’t exclusive to red raspberries. Ketone bodies are actually a naturally occurring compound in our body. What Are Ketones? Ketone bodies are the metabolic end products of our body’s fatty acid metabolism. The liver breaks down fatty acids in our body as a way to provide us energy when blood-glucose levels are low. Ketone bodies are the by-products of this process. They become available to the body as an alternative energy source. Ketones are naturally occurring in our body, going all the way back to birth. Ketone bodies are essentially three water-soluble compounds. The liver transports two of these, acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate, to other tissues where they can be reconverted to acetyl-CoA to supply energy. The third compound, acetone, cannot be reconverted to acetyl-CoA. It is instead excreted in urine or exhaled while breathing. The Body And Energy It is commonly known that glucose (sugar), just like ketones, are another source of fuel and energy within the body. The carbohydrates that we consume in our diet ensure that glucose is present in our bloodstream. This is the first place your body will turn to when looking for fuel. The problem is the human body does not store glucose very well without consistent replenishment. This isn’t a problem for most people, since we as a nation tend to consume an unhealthy amount of sugars and carbohydrates, and don’t burn them off with sufficient exercise. In cases where glucose is less available, for instance if we engage in strenuous exercise, or we are fasting, or trying out a low-carbohydrate diet, most tissues turn to fatty acids for an additional energy source. However the human brain cann Continue reading >>

Ketogenic Diet Benefits

Ketogenic Diet Benefits

Just here for exogenous ketones? Click here to see some Exogenous Ketone Salt Products that I like a lot. (Use coupon code: “FEEDABRAIN” for a discount). What is Ketosis, and What is a Ketogenic Diet? We hear the word “keto” thrown around a lot nowadays in the health and fitness world, and not everyone fully understands what it means. When most people say “I’m doing keto”, they mean they are on a ketogenic diet. Ketogenic simply means “creating ketones”. You might be wondering what a ketone is. When we eat carbohydrates and sugars, our bodies convert these nutrients into glucose or other simple sugars to power our cells via the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Check out our Full Article on ATP to learn more. How Does Our Body Make Endogenous Ketones? To put it simply, ATP is like a little battery that stores energy, and our cells use these batteries to power just about every reaction in every cell of our bodies. However, our bodies can use fats to power our cells as well. When we eat fats or fatty acids, our liver converts these into ketones. Our cells cannot utilize fat right off the bat, but they can use ketones to create ATP after our liver has converted it. A ketogenic diet is typically described as a high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate diet. The Atkins Diet is usually the first thing that pops into people’s heads when they think “low carb diet”, and while Dr. Atkins popularized the diet in modern times, the ketogenic diet has been around for a very long time. The History of the Ketogenic Diet Many people believe so called “low carb diets” are just another fad diet, but we have been studying the ketogenic diet in the United States as far back as the 1920’s for its use in suppressing drug-resistant seizures! I suppo Continue reading >>

Your Brain On Ketones

Your Brain On Ketones

The modern prescription of high carbohydrate, low fat diets and eating snacks between meals has coincided with an increase in obesity, diabetes, and and increase in the incidence of many mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. In addition, many of these disorders are striking the population at younger ages. While most people would agree that diet has a lot to do with the development of obesity and diabetes, many would disagree that what we eat has much to do with our mental health and outlook. I believe that what we eat has a lot to do with the health of our brains, though of course mental illness (like physical illness) has multifactorial causes, and by no means should we diminish the importance of addressing all the causes in each individual. But let's examine the opposite of the modern high carbohydrate, low fat, constant snacking lifestyle and how that might affect the brain. The opposite of a low fat, snacking lifestyle would be the lifestyle our ancestors lived for tens of thousands of generations, the lifestyle for which our brains are primarily evolved. It seems reasonable that we would have had extended periods without food, either because there was none available, or we were busy doing something else. Then we would follow that period with a filling meal of gathered plant and animal products, preferentially selecting the fat. During the day we might have eaten a piece of fruit, or greens, or a grub we dug up, but anything filling or high in calories (such as a starchy tuber) would have to be killed, butchered, and/or carefully prepared before eating. Fortunately, we have a terrific system of fuel for periods of fasting or low carbohydrate eating, our body (and brain) can readily shift from burning glucose to burning what ar Continue reading >>

Ketosis Makes Your Brain Work Better

Ketosis Makes Your Brain Work Better

Every morning for the last four and a half months, I’ve broken off a large chunk of grass fed butter (usually around 50 grams or just over three tablespoons) and a couple tablespoons of coconut oil and thrown them in a blender with my morning coffee. You might have heard of this idea, dubbed ‘bulletproof coffee’ and created by a guy called Dave Asprey. 1 (this essay was originally posted at Aaron’s blog HERE) You might ask why the hell somebody might want to put butter in their coffee, but all you’d be proving is that you haven’t tried it (because it tastes amazing) and according to Dave Asprey, apparently will help make you healthier, feel better, perform better, think better – everything short of give you superpowers. Now, I didn’t want to like Dave Asprey… he’s just a little bit too charming – especially once you realize he’s created a whole line of supplements and other consumables that meet his extra-special toxin-free super-executive standards. I tried his upgraded mycotoxin free coffee beans and didn’t notice any difference between them and any other local fancy-shmancy coffee I’ve purchased since – not that I doubt that some people are more sensitive to these toxins, I just didn’t notice a difference. Nevertheless, I do like him. He does a good podcast and he clued me into something that I previously would have thought was completely insane, but now am starting to think is key to keep my brain working optimally – eating a high fat diet. A diet that is high in fat (60-70% of calories), is almost by definition low in carbs, and this means that when eating a high fat diet, it is likely that one is at least partially and some of the time in a state of ketosis. For those of you who don’t know, ketosis is what it is called when the Continue reading >>

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