For those new to the ketogenic diet, many know if it mainly as a way to lose weight. However, the ketogenic diet has many benefits beyond weight loss. For starters, going on a high fat, low carb diet can increase energy, decrease cravings, and fight against diseases such as heart disease. And recently, researchers have discovered that the keto diet may also reduce brain inflammation. Curious why that’s the case? Keep reading and learn more about the keto’s endless benefits in the Body Reboot book.
For starters, Perfect Keto explains what brain inflammation is and why it happens. Interestingly enough, brain inflammation typically happens from infection, aging, injuries, and more.
What is Brain Inflammation and How Does it Happen?
Brain inflammation refers to an immune response in the brain driven by aging, injury, infection, or some other condition. In turn, this immune response can negatively impact cognitive function, mood, behavior, and disease risk.
Short term brain inflammation often manifests as depression, anxiety, anorexia, sleep issues, and decreased physical activity. Longer term consequences include neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as certain psychiatric disorders.
ACUTE BRAIN INFLAMMATION
Your brain is a delicate organ, suspended in liquid, floating in your skull. If you hit your head too hard, your brain slams into the side of your cranium. This is called a concussion, or traumatic brain injury.
In response to this injury, immune particles called microglia and macrophages rush to the site — and along with them: inflammatory cytokines, or cytokines for short.
Cytokines are rallying beacons for the rest of the immune response. They activate a pathway called NFkB, which brings more cytokines — and other immune particles — to the site of injury. The larger the perceived injury, the larger the inflammatory response.
In the case of, say, an infection — this immune response can be desirable. You want your immune system fired up to destroy unwanted pathogens.
But often, the immune response stays too strong for too long. And when inflammation sticks around for too long (as with TBI), brain cells die and the risk of neurodegenerative disease skyrockets.
Perfect Keto goes on to explain how the keto diet can help lower blood glucose which helps keep your brain healthy. Too much glucose in your system can harm your brain over time, so going on a high-fat diet can help counteract that.
Keeping blood sugar, or blood glucose, low is like an insurance policy for your brain. That’s because high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) exacerbates brain damage in the context of brain injury or brain inflammation. High levels of glucose in the brain may even impair cognition.
One cause of high blood sugar? High-carb diets. Carbs are sugar, and when you eat them, your blood sugar rises in response to that meal. Then insulin — your blood sugar boss — comes along and cleans up the glucose mess, shoving that sugar into muscle and liver cells for storage.
But chronic high-carb, high-sugar diets — especially combined with poor sleep and a sedentary lifestyle — can lead, over time, to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance? That’s when your cells stop listening to insulin, causing blood sugar to stay high. This, unfortunately, is a recipe for systemic inflammation.
The keto diet may help. Why?
The keto diet is very low-carb, and minimizes blood sugar spikes
Ketone bodies like BHB suppress blood sugar levels
Keto lowers ghrelin — your hunger hormone — so you don’t crave as many carbs
Bottom line? Keto helps prevent high blood sugar, which may reduce brain inflammation.
Researchers are continuing to do research on the keto diet, and how it can reduce brain inflammation. Recently, Healthline talked about how a molecule called 2-deoxyglucose fights against harmful agents and can keep the brain healthy. 2-deoxyglucose comes from the ketogenic diet.
Scientists induced a state of inflammation in rat brains using the molecule lipopolysaccharide.
They then introduced another molecule called 2-deoxyglucose, which blocks glucose metabolism, a characteristic of the ketogenic diet.
The process effectively lowered levels of inflammation to nearly those of their control group of rats.
“We had really huge effects,” says Swanson. “The inflammatory response in the brain was almost completely shut down.”
“That was pretty damn convincing,” he added.
Researchers had similarly positive results with their experiment when conducted on brain cell cultures.
Inflammation is a complex process that the body relies on as part of a defense mechanism against potentially harmful agents, such as bacteria.
However, in certain cases, such as head trauma and stroke, inflammation in the brain can actually be harmful.
Reducing inflammation in these cases can “reduce tissue loss and improve functional outcomes in animal models,” the researchers wrote.
Tapping into the ketogenic diet’s anti-inflammatory properties could also potentially lead to treatment innovations in this area as well.
“The broadest possible application of this research would be that we might be able to negate pro-inflammatory effects of a high-carb diet and people who are diabetic by interfering in the same mechanism,” said Swanson.
Curious as to what other studies say about the keto diet and brain inflammation? Medical News Today also discusses how the molecules from the keto diet help reduce levels of inflammation:
The 2DG molecule stopped glucose from metabolizing and created a ketogenic state in rodents with brain inflammation as well as in cell cultures. Levels of inflammation were drastically reduced – almost to healthy levels – as a result.
“We were surprised by the magnitude of our findings,” said Dr. Swanson. “Inflammation is controlled by many different factors, so we were surprised to see such a large effect by manipulating this one factor. It reinforces the powerful effect of diet on inflammation.”
The restricted glucose metabolism lowered the so-called NADH/NAD+ ratio. Dr. Swanson explained to MNT what this ratio refers to, saying, “NAD+ and NADH are naturally occurring molecules in cells that are involved in energy metabolism.”
“Cells convert NAD+ to NADH, as an intermediary step in generating energy from glucose, and thus increase the NADH/NAD+ ratio,” he added.
When this ratio is lowered, the CtBP protein gets activated and attempts to turn off inflammatory genes. As Dr. Swanson told us, “CtBP is a protein that senses the NADH/NAD ratio and regulates gene expression depending on this ratio.”
So, the scientists designed a molecule that stops CtBP from being inactive. This keeps the protein in a constant “watchful” state, blocking inflammatory genes in an imitation of the ketogenic state.
A recent study from Antioxidants (Basel). in 2018 revealed that the techniques that they studied (which were favorable for a reduction in inflammation) will continue to aid researchers in future studies.
The ketogenic diet, originally developed for the treatment of epilepsy in non-responder children, is spreading to be used in the treatment of many diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. The main activity of the ketogenic diet has been related to improved mitochondrial function and decreased oxidative stress. B-Hydroxybutyrate, the most studied ketone body, has been shown to reduce the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), improving mitochondrial respiration: it stimulates the cellular endogenous antioxidant system with the activation of nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), it modulates the ratio between the oxidized and reduced forms of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+/NADH) and it increases the efficiency of electron transport chain through the expression of uncoupling proteins. Furthermore, the ketogenic diet performs anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-kB) activation and nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich-containing family, pyrin domain-containing-3 (NLRP3) inflammasome as well as inhibiting histone deacetylases (HDACs), improving memory encoding. The underlying mechanisms and the perspectives for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease are discussed.\
The results obtained so far by applying the ketogenic diet to the treatment of several neurological diseases seem to be particularly interesting for the recovery of cognitive functions, although they are numerically limited. Different studies conducted on animal models have proposed a causal role for KD, although they do not always reflect with precision the pathogenesis underlying the development of neurological diseases. The few studies conducted on humans available so far are based on a pre/post design but without a reference control group and without randomization. Of particular interest were the RCTs that correlated the introduction of KD to an improvement of verbal receptive vocabulary and of reaction time in children affected by epilepsy, as well as an improvement in attention and memory in patients affected by multiple sclerosis. The results demonstrated causal evidence and stressed the need to increase the number of studies to demonstrate that 4:1 KD induces a cognitive improvement in neurological diseases.
The metabolomics techniques and the network-based integration methodologies will allow us to investigate the interaction among multiple genes, epigenetics and environmental factors, in order to better understand the pathogenesis of AD, to study and to monitor the activity and the efficacy of new therapeutic approaches such as KD and, finally, to develop a personalized management of the disease.
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Discover how to activate your body's “Reboot Switch” that flips on a fat burning inferno so you can finally get healthy and achieve your weight loss goals!