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What Ketosis Does To Your Brain

Brain, Livin' On Ketones - A Molecular Neuroscience Look At The Ketogenic Diet

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 >>

Keep Yourself In Ketosis

Keep Yourself In Ketosis

When talking about a Grain Brain lifestyle, and the very similar ketogenic diet, it’s frequently mentioned that we are aiming to keep our bodies in ketosis. However, if you’re new to my work, it may be that you’re not exactly sure what ketosis is, or why we should be worrying about getting our body into this state. Allow me to explain. Ketones are a special type of fat that can stimulate the pathways that enhance the growth of new neural networks in the brain. A ketogenic diet is one that is high in fats, and this diet has been a tool of researchers for years, used notably in a 2005 study on Parkinson’s patients finding an improvement in symptoms after just 28 days. The improvements were on par with those made possible via medication and brain surgery. Other research has shown the ketogenic diet to be remarkably effective in treating some forms of epilepsy, and even brain tumors. Ketones do more than just that though. They increase glutathione, a powerful, brain-protective antioxidant. Ketones facilitate the production of mitochondria, one of the most important actors in the coordinated production that is the human body. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our bodies are said to enter ketosis at the point when blood sugar levels are low and liver glycogen are no longer available to produce glucose as a fuel for cellular energy production. At this point, not only is the body doing the natural thing, and burning off fat, it’s also powering up the brain with a super efficient fuel. We can jump start ourselves into ketosis with a brief fast, allowing our body to quickly burn through the carbs that are in our system, and turn to fat for fuel. A ketogenic diet is one that derives around 80% or more of of its calories from fat, and the rest from carbs and prote Continue reading >>

Feeling Euphoric On A Low-carb Diet? The Effect On Your Brain Is Similar To An Illicit Drug

Feeling Euphoric On A Low-carb Diet? The Effect On Your Brain Is Similar To An Illicit Drug

Feeling euphoric on a low-carb diet? The effect on your brain is similar to an illicit drug June 21, 2017 4.02pm EDT Some people on very low-carb diets say they feel euphoric, have clear minds and lose their appetite. Going low-carb might even mimic the effects of GHB – the recreational drug better known as fantasy, liquid ecstasy or grievous bodily harm – on the brain. To understand why we need to look at how the body processes a very low-carb diet, one that typically limits carbohydrates to no more than 50 grams a day. That’s one cup of rice, two slices of bread or roughly 10% of your total daily energy needs. Your body thinks it’s starving A very low-carb diet flips your metabolic switch from burning more carbs than fat, to more fat than carbs. This usually takes a few days in a process known as ketosis. During this time, your body thinks it’s starving. Once it uses up most of your glucose (carb) reserves, the body stimulates the breakdown of stored fat into fatty acids and releases them into the blood. When fatty acids reach the liver they’re converted into acetoacetate, an excellent metabolic fuel that belongs to a family of chemicals called ketones. That’s why very low-carb diets are sometimes called “ketogenic” diets. Acetoacetate decomposes to carbon dioxide and acetone, the smelly solvent best known for its ability to remove nail polish. This is why very low-carb dieters and people who are fasting often have sweet smelling breath. A healthy liver minimises the acetone lost via the lungs by converting most of the acetoacetate it produces to a more stable substance, called beta-hydroxybutyrate or BHB. And this is where those euphoric feelings could come from. BHB is almost identical to GHB, the naturally occurring neurotransmitter, called gamma- 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 >>

#147: Ketosis And Your Brain

#147: Ketosis And Your Brain

There was a time not so long ago when nutrition was simple: carbs good, fats bad. But since this neat summary was from the same people who told us to eat more margarine and fewer eggs, well, let’s just say that advice wasn’t the most accurate. Welcome to the ketogenic diet. A high fat, low carb diet based on how our ancestors probably ate, it can control epilepsy, help you get a leaner body, and make your thinking clearer and sharper. Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida and Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), is here to talk to us about what exactly is going on in your body on a ketogenic diet. The Evolution of Human Diets When you think about how our caveman ancestors lived, they didn’t have access to a glut of high glycemic load foods like ripe fruit or honey, and they definitely weren’t snacking on white bread. They were eating a diet high in fiber and fat, and low in carbs. They were also probably in ketosis for most of the year. Cognitive Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet When your body is in ketosis, your brain just works better: you’ll feel more lucid and sharp. Like so much about the brain, we don’t know exactly why this is. But from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense. If you haven’t been successful in getting food, it’s time to make a new plan, and you more likely come up with a successful one if your thinking is clear and sharp. Getting into Ketosis Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your brain and body’s energy comes from ketone bodies, instead of from glucose. There are a few ways of pushing your body into ketosis, including sustained periods of fasting and following a ketogenic diet (as the name so obvio Continue reading >>

3 Reasons Why Keto Is Better For The Brain

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 >>

A Neurologist On Ketone Drinks & What The Ketogenic Diet Can (really) Do For Your Brain

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

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 >>

The Fat Burning Brain: What Are The Cognitive Effects Of Ketosis?

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 >>

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 >>

Ketones Suppress Brain Glucose Consumption

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?

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 >>

6 Ways A Ketogenic Diet Improves Brain Function

6 Ways A Ketogenic Diet Improves Brain Function

The ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920’s as a medical approach for reducing seizures in cases of pediatric epilepsy. Although we didn’t fully understand the mechanisms on how this worked, it was understood that elevated levels of ketones in the blood correlated with a significant decrease in epileptic episodes. Since then, we have come understand deeper ways in which a ketogenic diet improves brain function. The ketogenic diet remerged in recent years when people realized they would have more energy and elevated mental acuity when following it. After years of sideways science claiming that the body must have a constant intake of carbohydrate to be healthy, people are discovering the truth. On top of improved mental performance, the ketogenic diet is now being highlighted as a therapeutic strategy for mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases. Here I am going to break down the benefits and applications of the ketogenic diet for brain-related disorders. Low-Carb Vs. Ketogenic Before we get into it, it is important to understand what exactly a ketogenic diet is. If your goal is to employ the ketogenic diet as a healing strategy, it is important to be scientific to improve your chances of success. Many people think that a ketogenic diet is simply a high-fat, low-carb diet. While this is true, it does not provide the whole picture. The goal of the ketogenic diet is to drop blood sugar so low that the body resorts to fats for energy instead. This means if you eat too many carbs or too little fat, you may not fully shift into ketosis. Consuming too much protein can also prevent a shift into ketosis as excess amino acids are converted into glucose. Everyone reacts a little differently and so I usually recommend measuring your blood sugar and ketone levels througho Continue reading >>

How To Use The Ketogenic Diet For Productivity And Mental Performance

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 source of energy, the brains pulls from its alternative energy source: fat. But before fats can be used by the body, the liver has to first convert them to ketone bodies. Then, these ketone bodies are used as energy for the body and brain when there is lack of glucose. This is how ketosis works. Now that we’ve understood that, let’s talk about how ketosis might be used as an advantage for your mental state and productivity. KETONES IMPROVE BRAIN FUNCTION The standard Western diet is deficiency in many areas, including the very important essential fatty acids. This is detrimental to health bec Continue reading >>

How Low-carb And Ketogenic Diets Boost Brain Health

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 >>

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