Do Low Carbohydrate Diets Make You Dumber?
Low-carbohydrate diets, where carbohydrates constitute anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of total caloric intake (approximately 25 to 150 grams each day), are all the rage right now. For many, they're a successful impetus to sustained weight loss and improved health. But there could be an unforeseen toll. Because of the way that the human brain functions, low-carbohydrate diets may adversely impact cognitive ability. Does a low-carb diet really make you duller? To examine this question, let's first discuss its focus: the brain. There's no reason to beat around the bush, your brain is a pig. Though idle enough when observed outside its home cranium -- all pink, squishy, and squelchy; kind of cute really -- the brain is a charged biological machine. In an unseen electrical storm that would rival even the mightiest lightning display, 86 billion neurons fire -- almost nonstop -- to create the mosaic of thoughts, emotions, and mental images that we call the mind. The whole operation is an immense power suck, ravenously consuming roughly 250 to 300 calories each day, 20-25% of a human's base energy expenditure. As far as food goes, the brain is a fairly picky eater. Like a young candy-craving child, it prefers simple sugar molecules -- glucose to be specific -- and when the brain doesn't get glucose, it gets crabby and distracted. Since the body most easily creates glucose by metabolizing carbohydrates, it stands to reason that limiting carbohydrates could dampen cognitive function. When consuming low-carb diets in the short term, this is certainly true. In a 2008 study, psychologists placed 19 women on either a calorie restricted low-carb diet or a calorie restricted high-carb diet for 28 days. Throughout the study, participants' memory, reaction time, and vigilance were tested Continue reading >>
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A Neurologist On Ketone Drinks & What The Ketogenic Diet Can (really) Do For Your Brain
Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D. Deciding what to eat for optimal health can be confusing. There are so many different dietary approaches, and each is touted as the most beneficial to our health and waistlines, yet the actual nutrition advice often differs greatly or conflicts. It can be difficult to keep up with all the trends and fads, and sometimes it's hard to know who to trust. I'm often asked for nutritional guidance in my clinic, and recently I've been hearing a lot of questions about the ketogenic diet from my patients. Here's exactly what I tell them. Despite its current surge in popularity, the ketogenic diet has been around for a long time and is commonly used for refractory seizure disorders (epilepsy). In fact, evidence of its efficacy for epilepsy dates back as far as 1921. There are many different types of the ketogenic diet,including the classic version, the medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) diet, the modified Atkins diet, and the low-glycemic diet. Because fasting is a rapid method of achieving ketosis, intermittent fasting diets can also be ketogenic depending on how it's accomplished. But what is ketosis? Here are five simple scientific facts that I often give to my patients: 1. In ketosis, human metabolism switches its main energy source from carbohydrates to fatty acids and ketones once the storage form of glucose (glucagon) is used up. 2. In ketosis, the fat cells break down triglycerides into fatty acids, and those fatty acids are used as the energy source by the liver and muscles. 3. The liver cells take the fatty acids and oxidize them into ketones, which are used as the energy source by the brain, muscles, and other tissues. 4. Ketones are in the specific forms acetoacetate, acetone, and beta-hydroxybutyrate. Therefore, checking beta-hydroxybutyrate seru Continue reading >>
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 >>
Brain, Livin' On Ketones - A Molecular Neuroscience Look At The Ketogenic Diet
Edited October 3, 2013: A 2.0 version of this post can be found at Scientific American MIND Guest blogs, here. And here's me talking about it. Feel free to check it out! Remember when your high school biology teacher said that the brain absolutely NEEDS glucose to function? Well, that’s not entirely true. Under severe carbohydrate restriction, the brain can adapt and start burning ketones as fuel. Originally devised as a therapy for drug-resistant epilepsy in children, the ketogenic diet (keto) has been gaining popularity lately. It’s a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate diet (LCHF) designed to force the body to go into a state called metabolic ketosis. With the advent of books like “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why we get fat”, LCHF diets are increasingly touted as the magic bullet to weight loss. While there is considerable interest in the medical community in using the ketogenic diet to manage metabolic syndrome or prevent cardiovascular disease, more attention has focused on its role in drug-resistant seizure management and (potentially) neuroprotective effects in brain damage. In the last decade, keto has been shown to improve memory in patients at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, stabilize mood in type II bipolar disorder, reduce symptoms in Parkinson’s disease and even ameliorate some behavioral and social deficits in autism. Keto also seems to decrease brain cancer progression. ALL without observable side effects. Although most of these studies were unblinded (hence placebo can’t be ruled out), the effect is still amazing. What is going on in the brain? And why aren’t pharmaceutical companies racing to package keto into a convenient treat-all 3-a-day pill? How does the body go into ketosis? Source: Simple speaking, strict carbo Continue reading >>
How Low-carb And Ketogenic Diets Boost Brain Health
Low-carb and ketogenic diets have many health benefits. For example, it is well known that they can cause weight loss and help fight diabetes. However, they are also beneficial for certain brain disorders. This article explores how low-carb and ketogenic diets affect the brain. Although there is a lot of overlap between low-carb and ketogenic diets, there are also a few important differences. Ketogenic diet: Carbs are limited to 50 grams or less per day. A major goal is to increase blood levels of ketones, molecules that can partly replace carbs as an energy source for the brain. Low-carb diet: Protein is usually not restricted. Ketones may or may not rise to high levels in the blood. On a ketogenic diet, the brain is mainly fueled by ketones. These are produced in the liver when carb intake is very low. On a standard low-carb diet, the brain will still be largely dependent on glucose, although it may burn more ketones than on a regular diet. Low-carb and ketogenic diets are similar in many ways. However, a ketogenic diets contains even fewer carbs, and will lead to a significant rise in blood levels of ketones. You may have heard that your brain needs 130 grams of carbs per day to function properly. This is one of the most common myths about low-carb diets. In fact, a report by the US Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board states: "The lower limit of dietary carbohydrates compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed." Although a zero-carb diet isn't recommended because it eliminates many healthy foods, you can definitely eat much less than 130 grams per day and maintain good brain function. It is a common myth that you need to eat 130 grams of carbs per day to provide the brain with energy. Low-carb d Continue reading >>
Is Cannabis Good Or Bad For Your Brain?
Though it is a bummer to say, there is no firm answer on whether or not cannabis is good for your brain. However, there have been several major scientific breakthroughs in the last decade that have had extremely positive results. 1. Stress management Many cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, areneuroprotective antioxidants. This means that they help the body fend off damage caused by free radicals. 2. Anti-aging Stress and aging are both two factors that slow down neurogenesis. Finding compounds or technologies that promote healthy activity in this region is competitive pursuit, and cannabis is an excellent contender for future therapies. 3. Trauma prevention Some pharmaceutical startups are currently researching ways to make cannabis-based drugs that can prevent damage from concussion. The research on cannabis and brain health is mixed and largely unsatisfying. Thus far, the heart of the debate centers on chronic adolescent and teen cannabis consumption. In general, research is very suspicious of the potential long-term effects of protracted consumption in young, developing brains. Tobacco use, however, was positively associated with lower IQ. Cannabis can also cause some short and long term alterations to memory. In the short term, learning and retaining new information is difficult after consuming cannabis. In the long term, one 2016 study found that heavy cannabis consumers may have some trouble with verbal memory. If you grow veg flower indoor, you may need led grow light to help. Continue reading >>
Is Driving Bad For Your Brain?
Driving combines things such as your hand-eye coordination, attention span, situational awareness, and attention span. Driving is second-nature and I don’t think it is bad for you for the usual commute to work, or a short trip to another city. However, when you drive for long periods of time, you definitely feel the effects of it. You lose energy much faster than you would if you were not at the wheel. That constant focus, no matter how easy it may seem to some, wears away at your awareness, and energy. Make sure to pull over at rest stops every few hours so you can take a break, get some food or a coffee if needed, or take that long drive with a friend and switch out every few hours. Long drives can be fun and peaceful. Falling asleep at the wheel is not. Continue reading >>
3 Reasons Why Keto Is Better For The Brain
The rigors and stress of life often leads us astray when it comes to our diet. Whether it’s a lack of proper nutrients or consuming either too few or too many calories – this can put our bodies out of equilibrium. With a failure to maintain an equilibrium, the body’s energy levels decline and performance on day to day tasks can suffer. We also observe deterioration in more complex tasks. Plus, as we age, it becomes more important to maintain a balance to perform and succeed in daily life. The keto diet is the answer to this! We’ll go over three reasons why the ketogenic diet is great for you and your brain. Increased Energy A lack of energy is an all too familiar feeling for most of us. As many of us try to squeeze more time out of each day, we find ourselves constantly running on fumes, nearing the end of our “tank”. As each day passes, we progressively become more fatigued and sluggish – we see that our mental performance and physical drive declines. But, there’s good news! Research has shown that those who follow a ketogenic (ketone) based diet can develop an increase in mitochondrial function and a decrease in free radicals. (1) What does this mean for you? In a nutshell, the major role of mitochondria is to process the intake of food and oxygen and produce energy from that. An increase in the mitochondrial function equates to more energy for your cells – which leads to more energy for you. Free radicals are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules in the body. They are highly reactive and the danger comes from the damage they’re able do to our mitochondria. When this occurs, cells may function poorly or die. Reducing the production of free radicals can lead to better neurological stability and cellular performance, leading to more ene Continue reading >>
Ketones Suppress Brain Glucose Consumption
Go to: 1. INTRODUCTION Neurodegeneration after oxidative stress limits the recovery of tissue response and appears to be caused by impaired glycolysis. If indeed there is a defect in glucose metabolism it might be beneficial to supplement energy metabolism with an alternate substrate. It was suggested that brain can supplement glucose as the principal energy substrate with ketone bodies1–3 without altering oxygen consumption4,5. Classic studies of ketosis induced by fasting or starvation in humans showed that brain function was maintained which was attributed to the utilization (oxidation) of ketone bodies as alternate energy substrates to glucose by the brain6. Rats that have been fasted for 2–3 days showed no difference in cerebral blood flow (CBF) or CMRO27. One mechanism by which ketosis might be beneficial is through the metabolic step where ketones enter the TCA cycle at the level of citrate bypassing glycolysis, the step after pyruvate dehydrogenase complex where the enzyme activity is often impaired. Through feed-back regulation, ketones are known to down regulate glycolytic rates at various levels such as citrate, phosphofructokinase and/or hexokinase. In addition, particularly in brain, ketones are a carbon source for glutamate (anaplerosis) and thus help to balance glutamate/glutamine homeostasis through stabilization of energy metabolism in astrocyte following recovery from a hypoxic/ischemic event. Based on our experiments and evidence in the literature, we have developed the hypothesis that ketones are effective against pathology associated with altered glucose metabolism, the rationale being that ketosis helps to regulate glucose metabolism. In this study, the effects of ketosis on the local cerebral metabolic rate of glucose consumption (CMRglu) were Continue reading >>
Does Ketosis Makes Your Brain Work Better And Faster?
Ketosis won't make you smarter, it won't increase your IQ, nor will it give you super powers. However, I believe that for most people ketosis will not impede brain function, either. Some studies postulate that the brain prefers to function in a state of ketosis, making it more efficient at going about its business. BHB (a major ketone) may be an even more efficient fuel than glucose, providing more energy per unit oxygen used. From my layperson's perspective, it makes sense that ketosis is beneficial for brain function, especially when paired with the knowledge that ketosis was (and is sometimes still) used as a treatment for seizures, which originate in the brain. For more information on the varied benefits of ketosis, see my answer to Is the Keto diet effective? Continue reading >>
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 >>
How Would The Human Body React To Near-instant Fat Loss In A Morbidly Obese Person?
OK since this is a hypothetical question, let’s suppose that somehow there was a way to remove all of the fat in your body instantaneously by some magical means. This way it’s totally safe and you don’t die from blood loss or shock. So one sunny day you’re trudging along on the sidewalk talking to your friends about what to have for lunch. Then suddenly a fairy comes around and completely removes all your fat. But the fairy doesn’t worry about how your body will adjust, only that she removes all your fat without killing you. Since you still have muscles which was responsible for moving 50+ pounds of extra fat in your body, the first thing you will notice is how light you are! If you were in the middle of walking when the instantaneous fat removal happened, it may even cause you to become off balance and trip over yourself! But once you look down and feel your new body, the next thing you will notice is just how much loose skin you have. This is more or less how you will look like: And as the other posters here have stated, afterwards you may experience extreme lethargy and depression due to the hormonal imbalance resulting from the missing fat cells. So what did we learn here? Fat loss is complicated and is definitely not so cut and dried. Just because you can rapidly lose fat does not mean you will end up with a “hot-bod.” People don’t consider how difficult it is to get rid of saggy skin after rapid weight loss. The key here is that weight loss should never be instant or rapid. Weight loss equates to healthy lifestyle and active living which means it is a lifetime commitment. There are no short cuts and attempting to do so tends to produce inferior results. Never try to cut corners. There are people who lost 100+ pounds over a few years and end up with Continue reading >>
Is Multitasking Bad For Your Brain?
When referred, I understand “multitasking of brain” as being occupied by more than one thing simultaneously in a conciouss way. I am no expert of the subject but I can share my experience. Somewhere in my life I decided to force my brain as much as possible. For example; while listening somebody, write some code; while attending a meeting (of which subject is directly related with me), read an incoming mail; while directing a colleague, answer another mail; etc… This was a silly idea. I just wondered how the output would be and if I could have harnessed the power for my career… The result was terrible. I gathered anxiety from which it took a couple of years to get rid of. My direct conclusion was (and still is) human brain is not designed for multi-consciouss-tasking. Just take your time and separate your tasks for your mental health. On the other hand, of course autonomous tasks are being carried out in parallel but I believe they can not be classified conciouss tasks such as interpreting sensory information (sight, hearing, etc), pulse for hearth, balance stabilising calculations and commands towards muscles, etc. Continue reading >>
Is Chocolate Bad For Your Brain?
If it were true that chocolate is bad for the brain, then I’d probably have the intelligence of a rock by now. I really love chocolate, and have probably consumed many hundreds of pounds of it in my lifetime so far. While I was a college student a long time ago (studying Electrical Engineering), I would often load up on chocolate right before a midterm exam. There seemed to be a very strong correlation between eating chocolate right before an exam and doing exceptionally well on the exam, indicating a possible causal relationship. If indeed the causal relationship existed, then perhaps it was merely due to the sugar high that I’d get after eating so much chocolate. Other factors which might have contributed to my calm collectedness and high performance on the exams are the theobromine and the caffeine in the chocolate. Decades later, I don’t believe that my brain is any worse off for having eaten so much chocolate. My main concern with eating too much chocolate is not what it might do to my brain, but is instead the excessive sugar intake and the correspondingly high number of unnecessary calories. Continue reading >>
The Fat Burning Brain: What Are The Cognitive Effects Of Ketosis?
41 Comments Although mainstream sources still mistake “the brain needs glucose” for “the brain can only run on glucose,” regular MDA readers know the truth: given sufficient adaptation, the brain can derive up to 75% of its fuel from ketone bodies, which the liver constructs using fatty acids. If we could only use glucose, we wouldn’t make it longer than a few days without food. If our brains couldn’t utilize fat-derived ketones, we’d drop dead as soon as our liver had exhausted its capacity to churn out glucose. We’d waste away, our lean tissue dissolving into amino acids for hepatic conversion into glucose to feed our rapacious brains. You’d end up a skeletal wraith with little else but your brain and a hypertrophied liver remaining until, eventually, the latter cannibalized itself in a last ditch search for glucose precursors for the tyrant upstairs. It would get ugly. That’s adaptation. But is there an actual cognitive advantage to running on ketones? Maybe. It depends. It certainly helps people with neurodegeneration. People whose brains suffer from impaired glucose utilization see cognitive benefits from ketones. In Alzheimer’s disease, aging-related cognitive decline, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease, brain glucose uptake is depressed—even before any actual cognitive decline appears. Despite high glucose availability, the aging, epileptic, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s brain can’t utilize enough of it to handle cognition. Enter ketones. Ketones act as an alternative energy source for the glucose-starved brains. It’s no coincidence that ketogenic diets can improve symptoms (and in some cases abolish them) and cognitive function in all four conditions. Okay, but those are in unhealthy people with existing (or looming) neurological d Continue reading >>