Although mainstream sources still mistake “the brain needs glucose” for “the brain can only run on glucose”. Those of us who have done a little research know the truth: given sufficient adaptation, the brain can derive up to 75% of its fuel from ketone bodies.
That’s after adaptation. But is there an actual mental advantage to running on ketones?
Maybe. Different studies have come to different conclusions. What they are clear about is, it certainly helps people with neurodegeneration.
People whose brains suffer from impaired glucose utilization see documented benefits from ketones. In Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, brain glucose uptake is depressed, even before any actual mental decline appears. Despite high glucose availability, the epileptic, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s brain can’t utilize enough of it to maintain normal cognition. Ketones, on the other hand, 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, in all three conditions.
Studies also suggest that, otherwise healthy people can experience cognitive benefits from the brain’s use of ketones. In people with “mild cognitive decline” rather than full-blown Alzheimer’s, a ketogenic diet improves memory. It hasn’t been validated in scientific studies on healthy subjects, but the fact that it’s a “movement” and shows positive results in “unhealthy” brains suggest it’s worth exploring.
There are some interesting studies to take notice of:
- Type 1 diabetics who experience reduced cognitive function because of low blood sugar see those deficits erased by increasing Beta-Hydroxy-Butyrate (BHB) through dietary fats like those found in coconut oil.
- In memory impaired adults, some with Alzheimer’s, BHB improved function. Scores improved overall with rising ketone levels.
- A ketone-elevating agent improved memory and function in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.
- A very low-carb diet improved memory in older adults. Again, ketone levels tracked with improvements.
Ketosis upregulates mitochondrial biogenesis (new brain cell production) in the brain.
I had to look that one up, but what it means it that it creates new power plants in the brain that are good at burning fat-derived fuel. This is what’s actually responsible for the anticonvulsant benefits in patients with epilepsy, and the benefits seen in other brain disorders caused by glucose uptake problems.
By providing an alternate source of fuel, brains that don’t run so well on glucose, can begin burning fat and increase function. There’s no indication that ketosis only produces mitochondrial biogenesis in “unhealthy” brains. “Healthy” brain function while in ketosis, simply hasn’t been studied enough, but, there’s reason to believe that ketone-induced mitochondrial biogenesis will improve overall function.
I don’t think we all need to be on a ketogenic diet, nor do we need to remain in ketosis for long periods of time if we don’t choose to. Personally, I will never stop after the dramatic results I have seen.
I do think, at the very least, we need to slip into ketosis every once in a while, because we are built for it and we derive several benefits from it.
We know in the short term, and probably longer term, that it’s safe. We know it seems to ward off neurodegeneration, as well as improve the brains of people already suffering from different afflictions. What we don’t know is if it will provide as many lasting benefits to healthy individuals.
I think everyone could benefit from the occasional trip into ketosis, it will help you think better, perform better and produce better results. I’ve felt it myself.
How about you? Has the fat-burning brain shown you results?
Stay tuned to our web page ketocouplesjourney.com, our Instagram @ketocouplesjourneyatl, our YouTube and Facebook pages @ketocouplesjourney and our Facebook Group, Ketogenic Journey, for more information and real life transformations.
Good luck on your journey!