Can Brain Utilize Ketones?

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Avoid Alzheimer’s With This Brain Healthy Diet

Over one million American adults are diagnosed with a chronic brain disease or disorder every single year. And this number is only climbing higher. Most of these diseases are caused by chronic inflammation in the brain. Chronic inflammation is often a direct result of poor diet and lifestyle. So what kind of diet can help prevent and even reverse these devastating diseases? The Ketogenic Diet The ketogenic (a.k.a. keto) diet involves a strict restriction of carbohydrate consumption which prompts the body to switch from using carbohydrate to burning fat for fuel. Most of the cells in the body are able to use fat as an alternate fuel to glucose except for the brain. Although the brain is unable to use fat directly as a power source, it is capable of utilizing a byproduct of fatty acid metabolism called ketone bodies. Ketone bodies, also known as ketones, are produced by the liver during times of low carbohydrate intake such as fasting. This process is called ketogenesis. Interestingly, given sufficient adaptation, the brain can derive up to 75% of its fuel from ketone bodies. But what about the other 15%? The answer lies in the liver’s ability to create glucose from amino acids. Th 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
    Here's one from 2006 on ketone and glucose metabolism in the honey bee vs fruit flies and mosquitos
    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.

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