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Can Ketogenic Diets Improve Brain Function?

Can Ketogenic Diets Improve Brain Function?
April 01
13:05 2016

A ketogenic diet is one where carbs are restricted to 50 grams or less per day. Often times, protein is restricted as well, but this is not true of all ketogenic diets. By following this diet, health experts believe that you can increase blood levels of a molecule called ketones that provide energy to the brain. Although similar, ketogenic diets allow fewer carbs than a regular low-carb diet. The latter also does not restrict protein intake.

 

How is energy supplied to the brain?

Low-carb diets, including the ketogenic diet, supply energy to the brain through ketogenesis and gluconeoegenesis.

Ketones are typically produced in small amounts by the liver when you go for hours without eating, such as during sleep or fasting. When your carb intake falls below 50 grams a day, your liver speeds up the production to increase the supply of ketones in your body. In the absence of carbs, ketones provide around 70% of your brain’s energy.

However, there are parts of the brain that require glucose to function, not ketones. On a low-carb diet, this glucose can be provided by the small amounts of carbs that you’re consuming, or through a process called gluconeoegenesis, where the liver makes new glucose.

 

How do low-carb diets affect the brain?

Further research is needed, however initial studies show that ketogenic diets may benefit people who have Alzheimer’s Disease. Research done on animals show that ketogenic diets may be successful in fueling brains with Alzheimer’s using those vital ketones. The same can be said with epilepsy, although scientists are unsure of the exact reason why ketones have such a positive effect on people with these conditions.

Studies are limited in regards to ketogenic diets and the brain, however a number of other benefits have been found, including:

  • Rats who have been fed a ketogenic diet show increased brain function.
  • Researchers believe that ketogenic diets may help relieve migraine headaches.
  • Seniors who are at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s show improved memories after following a strict ketogenic diet.

If you would like to try a ketogenic diet, here are some tips to follow that will help you stick closely to the diet:

  • Drink plenty of fluid. Water loss will occur during the first stages of the diet, so stay hydrated.
  • Eat 1-2 additional grams of salt per day to replace the salt loss from the reduction of carbs.
  • Eat foods high in potassium and magnesium such as bananas or yogurt.

Remember, before you begin any diet, it’s always best to consult with your doctor and make sure it’s safe for you.

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Mina Sinai

Mina Sinai

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