Neuroprotection with Keto
Keto can protect your brain
Most people use the ketogenic diet for weight loss. That is by far its most popular use; however, these people are gaining much more than they ever thought possible. It’s like buying a ticket to Florida and finding out you won a scuba diving trip with Leonardo DiCapario. You get much more than you pay for.
The ketogenic diet is awesome for just about any metabolic disease, especially for diabetes and heart disease. But that is not the only thing a ketogenic diet can do. It will give you youthful energy, a youthful body, and it can even give you a youthful brain. That’s right, you will have the brain power of a 20-year-old when you are 50.
Being on a ketogenic diet is the surest way we know to prevent neurological diseases like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. A few weeks ago, I had a blog post about using the ketogenic diet for Alzheimer’s (check it out here), and we talked about the implications of brain protection by following a ketogenic diet.
It is related once again to calorie restriction. Although those on the ketogenic diet do not have to worry about calories-in / calories out, they should recognize the diet they are on mimics the same effects of calorie restriction. You also will find that you naturally eat less on the ketogenic diet.
All of these things are related, but what do they do for us? They help us live longer, and they help protect our brain from deterioration. That is the topic of the research article I read through this last week. Researchers from the US wanted to unpack what is going on with the ketogenic diet. [Click here for the file.]
If you knew living this kind of lifestyle could prevent Alzheimer’s at the same time as losing tons of weight, would you follow it?
They found about 100 years ago that calorie restriction had neurological benefits to it. However, this is not talking about any old calorie restriction – it was intermittent fasting, specifically, that brought these awesome effects. And do you know what they found in the blood while this was happening?
Beta-hydroxybutyrate. Yep, they found that ketone body floating around in the blood for metabolism. Then they thought, “well, maybe we could formulate a diet that induces ketosis even when somebody is eating.” That in combination with the understanding of insulin’s role in the body led to the creation of the ketogenic diet.
In fact, the original ketogenic diet was much higher in fat and lower in protein than we promote here. They wanted to send people into deep ketosis. And it worked! They were able to lessen the severity of epilepsy on kids. It was so effective that a few specialists use this diet for child epilepsy today.
Why does keto help the brain?
The first thing I thought of was that the ketogenic diet mimics the longevity effects of calorie restriction. So if it is mimicking calorie restriction, then things like autophagy might play a part in helping the brain. Then I found that autophagy can, indeed, occur in the brain. It helps keep it young.
Unfortunately, most of the mechanisms for why a ketogenic diet protects your brain is not understood. There is so much going on that it is hard to point to one factor as the main driver. But this article brought something to my attention: antioxidant effects of keto.
While I have understood for a long time that the ketogenic diet is the best way to prevent oxidative stress on your cells, I didn’t extrapolate that effect to the brain. Of course! If the ketogenic diet reduces reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, then a decrease of oxidative deterioration in the brain would right down the pipeline.
Because the ketogenic diet reduces ROS production, your brain cells can function more properly and last longer. Combine that with the other effects of the ketogenic diet, and oh my gosh, it is so clear as to why it protects the brain so much. Feed your brain ketones, and forget the glucose!
 Veech, RL, Bradshaw PC, Clarke K, Curtis W, Pawlosky R, Kind MT. (2017). Ketone bodies mimic the life span extending properties of calorie restriction. IUBMB Life 69(5): 305-314.
 Maalouf M, Rho JM, Mattson MP. (2009). The neuroprotective properties of calorie restriction, the ketogenic diet, and ketone bodies. Brain Research Reviews 59(2): 293-315.
 Alirezaei M, Kemball CC, Flynn CT, Wood MR, Whitton L, Kiosses WB. (2010).Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy 6(6): 702-710.