Is the ‘Keto Diet’ Good for Your Brain and Health?

Is the ‘Keto Diet’ Good for Your Brain and Health?

Ketones have been in the spotlight by the health and fitness community because of the role they play toward weight loss. Hence, the low carbohydrate “keto diet” gained massive popularity.

But far more important than the fad-label of the keto diet, the benefits of ketones can go way beyond just weight loss and may lead to …

Improved physical and mental health

While the average “gym bro“ probably has heard of the keto diet, they probably haven’t gone beyond this catchy term and uncovered what ketones actually do in the body. 

In fact, ketones may lead to ...

Clearer thinking, better memory, improved metabolic health and even anti-aging 

The power of ketones are absolutely amazing.

And when combined with a little-known process called autophagy -- which is your body’s housekeeper -- removing damaged cells which otherwise would be left to drift around “the house” possibly leading to a host of serious and life-threatening diseases. (9)

The physical health benefits of ketosis, the mental health benefits and even autophagy may be unlike anything you have ever dreamed of. And over the next few weeks we will explore this and more.

Onward.

Ketones are far from “new”.

In fact, at the highest level, the ketogenic diet is actually about taking advantage of how ketones work. You see, our bodies produce ketones in response to:

  1. What we eat, and 
  2. Our energy requirements

In a nutshell, being able to activate the production of ketones through specific methods can make your body burn more fat and perform better.

Sounds like a dream come true, right?

Well, the more you know about what ketones are, how they are produced, and how they work in your body, the more you will be able to see how you can use ketones to fuel your mental strength and wellness lifestyle.

What are Ketones?

Everyone can utilize ketones. It’s not complicated. Said simply: ketones are produced in the liver in response to the lack of sugar or glucose as an energy source.

As opposed to being a new diet fad, modern ketogenic diets have been formerly used since the 1920s to help prevent epileptic seizures.

Many studies support the fact that being in a state of ketosis can lead to significant weight reduction. In fact a well-formulated ketogenic diet has led to weight loss results in as early as the first 2 weeks, it can aid in the preservation of lean muscle mass, and it can also lead to the decline of hunger pangs and even caloric intake, further increasing weight loss results. (3)

Commonly known as an alternative fuel, ketones are scientifically valid, thoroughly tested and proven to be a highly efficient energy source. 

In fact, many will argue that ketones are our body's primary fuel, and only until fairly recently (on the big timeline), glucose entered the scene as a convenient way to feed a lot of people, cheaply, quickly and easily.

As you know, your body requires a source of energy.  Your body will first make use of glucose, which comes from the sugars and carbohydrates that you consume in your diet. To do this, the body needs the help of insulin. Insulin acts as a regulator that allows your body to store excess glucose into your cells and allows your body to make use of the stored glucose as an energy source.

Glucose = Fat Storage
Ketones = Fat Burning

When your body does not have an adequate supply of glucose, it will have to look for a different source of energy - fats. To do this, your liver processes your fatty acids and forms substances which can be used as energy called ketones.(1)

When there are no glucose stores available, the body will utilize the ketogenic pathway. 

Once activated, ketogenesis happens within the liver cells. During activation, the liver’s cells will begin to break down fatty acids from the bloodstream or from your fat stores into acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone. These three related substances are called ketone bodies and are produced during the metabolism of fats. (2,10)

Be sure to remember beta-hydroxybutyrate as it could be the next best thing to the “fountain of youth”. We’ll explore this wonder chemical, produced by our own body, in a future tip. It’s absolutely amazing stuff, but most don’t get to unlock its magical healing power because its squashed and hidden by too much carbohydrate intake.

Your Brain and Gluconeogenesis: Why your brain doesn’t need you to eat  carbohydrates

Most people stop the conversation about ketones and report, “Since glucose is the brain's preferred fuel source, I will fuel it with sugars, grains and carbohydrates.”

But there is another very important process that literally feeds the brain in the absence of dietary glucose.

Think about this:  Put yourself back 10,000 years ago and ask ...

When our ancestors needed carbohydrates to fuel their brains, did they reach for the barley, oatmeal, spaghetti and chocolate chip cookies?

Of course not, those things didn't exist.

But what did exist - and still exists today - is a process called gluconeogenesis. And it’s importance cannot be overstated.

Your Brain Eats 75% of Your Body’s Glucose Requirements

Gluconeogenesis is crucial. And yes its true that the brain depends on glucose as its primary fuel, and its also true that red blood cells use only glucose as a fuel. (7)

Its also true that the daily glucose requirement of the brain in a typical adult is about 120 grams which is most of the 160 grams of glucose needed daily by the entire body!

Yes, you read that right --a whopping 75% of your body's glucose(sugars) needs are used by …

Your hungry brain!

But get this … normally, the amount of glucose floating around your body is about 20 g.

How much is 20 grams?

It's about 1 small packet of sugar. And for comparison, a 12 ounce can of soda has a little less than 10 teaspoons of sugar, which is 39 grams.

This means that one can of soda has twice the amount of glucose (it is actually high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is a combination of glucose and fructose) that is a normal amount for your body to process. Any more than that 20 grams and your body just might enlist the powers of insulin to enter “storage mode” which, over time, can potentially lead to a host of common, serious, chronic conditions.

But lets now assume that your body fuels itself with ketones, not glucose. Since your body is running on fat for energy, what does your brain do for energy?

Gluconeogenesis. It’s literally your body's way of producing enough glucose (demand-driven) from protein in order to supply it to the brain.

Gluconeogenesis occurs in the liver and kidney and helps to maintain the glucose level in the blood so that the brain and muscle can get enough glucose, as needed, in order to meet their metabolic demands. (7)

So, yes, while the brain does need glucose as its primary fuel source, no, you do not need to power down oats and sodas in order to give it this sugar requirement.

Ketones: they are a much better way.

How to Jumpstart the Metabolic State of Ketosis

If your body continues to produce ketones, it is possible for your body to increase ketone production.

Ketosis has been used by many individuals to help them achieve their health, weight loss and wellness goals. This is because when your body is in the state of ketosis, your body uses fat to fuel your body for routine tasks and for performing intense exercise.

Again, as a recap, in order to put your body in a state of ketosis, your diet would consist of very little carbohydrates. Many experts suggest keeping it under a total of 50 carbohydrates in a day. By depriving your body of carbohydrate stores, your body will be forced to produce ketones. And by maintaining a ketogenic diet for several days or weeks, and months, your body will constantly be in this efficient fat burning state.

Ketones: Is there a Danger?

Diabetes is common, and in 2015 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately 30 million people in the United States had diabetes -- although the actual number is probably much higher.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening complication of diabetes characterized by increased ketones that occurs most frequently in persons with type 1 diabetes. (5, 6)

Staying in the state of ketosis can put a person in the state of ketoacidosis. Its possible this can happen in about 10% of the population and may occur in uncontrolled diabetes. It can result in life-threatening conditions, coma and even death. This is the primary reason why the ketogenic diet is not recommended for people who have diabetes and have not gained all the facts under the guidance of a knowledgeable and trained medical professional. (4)

Ketones: Can they work for you?

Ketones are far from new, and they provide a virtually limitless, powerful source of energy. In fact, the brain specifically has the capability to use ketones as an energy source. (8)

There are many ways for us to take advantage of how ketones work in our body.

Ketones can provide a unique strategy towards weight loss, overall well-being, a renewed sense of vigor and can even help us clear out “the junk in the trunk” leading to a dramatic increase in health, longevity and quality of life.

Ketones can help our bodies perform on an entirely different level, which we will explore over the next several weeks.

Sources
  1. Sabrina Felson. (2018, November 12).What are ketones? Retrieved from WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/qa/what-are-ketones
  2. Dhillon, K. K., & Gupta., S. (2019, April 21).Biochemistry, Ketogenesis. Retrieved from NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493179/
  3. Dhillon, K. K., & Gupta., S. (2019, April 21).Biochemistry, Ketogenesis. Retrieved from NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493179/
  4. Ghimire, P., & Dhamoon., A. S. (2020, January 10).Ketoacidosis. Retrieved from NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534848/
  5. Michael Dansinger, M. (2019, June 02).Ketosis and the Keto Diet. Retrieved from WebMD:https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-1-diabetes-guide/what-is-ketosis#1
  6. Trends in Diabetic Ketoacidosis Hospitalizations and In-Hospital Mortality — United States, 2000–2014:https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6712a3.htm
  7. Section 16.3: Glucose Can Be Synthesized from Noncarbohydrate Precursors:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22591/
  8. KETONES SUPPRESS BRAIN GLUCOSE CONSUMPTION:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874681/ 
  9. Autophagy: cellular and molecular mechanisms:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990190/ 
  10.  Ketone bodies: a review of physiology, pathophysiology and application of monitoring to diabetes.: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10634967 

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