Keto and the Brain: How Ketones Affect the Brain
Did you know that Keto affects your brain as much as it affects your gut and the way your body generates energy? There’s actually ample evidence that a fat-fueled brain could work more efficiently than a carb-fueled one. It all has to do with ketogenesis, gluconeogenesis and the effects ketones have on the brain.
Ketogenesis and gluconeogenesis
As you probably know by now, how your body gets its energy is important. On a regular diet, it’s primarily burning glucose derived from carbohydrates, which are a cheap source of energy that your brain will quickly consume. On Keto, however, the body goes into ketosis and thinks it’s starving, so the liver begins producing ketones (ketogenesis). In doing so, it prompts the body to use fat to create glucose (gluconeogenesis)—a much more efficient process of creating energy that the brain can thrive on.
The difference between energy sources has to do with the mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell). When in ketosis, your body undergoes mitochondrial enhancement: that is, it produces more mitochondria in the brain, which processes energy more efficiently. The result? A brain boost you won’t get with any sugar rush!
Brain metabolism: your brain is hungry!
Many people don’t realize that their brains are a primary consumer of energy. In fact, the cost of flexing your mind muscle each day is about 20% of total energy expenditure for most people! In normal diets, that means your body is burning a lot of sugar to keep your brain active, alert and thinking. But on Keto that sugar is replaced with fat, which makes your brain a fat-fueled machine.
More important, the elevated presence of ketones in your body also satisfies another craving in your brain. Ketones increase GABA: a neuron inhibitor that can protect your brain’s neurons from premature cell death. As a result, ketones deliver a level of neuroprotection that helps your brain stay active, focused and alert, without over exciting neurons.
Science backs the fat-powered brain
There's still a lot to discover about the effects of the Keto Diet on the brain and how, specifically, ketones play a role in more efficient brain function. However, we know a tremendous amount already thanks to Keto’s long history as an epilepsy treatment. The neuroprotective attributes that help preserve neuron function are the same ones that help shield against epileptic seizures.
So how, exactly, does Keto give your brain a boost? Take a look at some of the studied benefits that accompany a fat-powered brain:
- Improved memory, including the ability to verbally recall events
- Improved cognition in those with mild- to moderate Alzheimer’s disease
- Histological and functional improvements from improved motor neuron function
- Better problem-solving and reasoning skills (in rat models; clinical trials forthcoming)
These benefits and many others all boil down to energy. When you give your brain a better energy source and help it to burn that energy more efficiently, the result is better performance. Think of it like putting premium fuel in your gas tank—or, better still—swapping in your old gas guzzler for a high-performance electric vehicle. Keto can help your brain feel less like an old jalopy and more like a sleek new Tesla.
Reserve your spot for our next keto challenge!