A low-carb diet has an incredible way of providing your brain with energy via different processes known as ketogenesis and gluconeogenesis. What's fascinating to learn is that on the keto diet, when carbs are eliminated or minimized, ketones can provide up to 70% of the brain's energy needs, as we learn in the Body Reboot book.
Plus, that's not all. According to the research below, the keto diet can help treat epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and in addition, also provide other benefits.
Low-carb diets have a fascinating way of providing your brain with energy via processes called ketogenesis and gluconeoegenesis.
Glucose, the sugar found in your blood, is usually the brain's main fuel. Unlike muscle, your brain can't use fat as a fuel source.
However, the brain can use ketones. Your liver produces ketones from fatty acids when glucose and insulin levels are low.
Ketones are actually produced in small amounts whenever you go for many hours without eating, such as after a full night's sleep.
However, the liver increases its production of ketones even further during fasting or when carb intake falls below 50 grams per day.
When carbs are eliminated or minimized, ketones can provide up to 70% of the brain's energy needs.
Although most of the brain can use ketones, there are portions that require glucose to function. On a very-low-carb diet, some of this glucose can be supplied by the small amount of carbs consumed.
The rest comes from a process in your body called gluconeogenesis, which means “making new glucose.” In this process, the liver creates glucose for the brain to use. It manufactures the glucose using amino acids, the building blocks of protein.
The liver can also make glucose from glycerol. This is the backbone that links fatty acids together in triglycerides, the body's storage form of fat.
Thanks to gluconeogenesis, the portions of the brain that need glucose get a steady supply, even when your carb intake is very low.
Low-Carb/Ketogenic Diets and Alzheimer's Disease
Although few formal studies have been done, it appears that low-carb and ketogenic diets may be beneficial for people with Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. It's a progressive disease where the brain develops plaques and tangles that cause memory loss.
Many researchers believe it should be considered “type 3” diabetes because the brain's cells become insulin resistant and are unable to use glucose properly, leading to inflammation.
Other Benefits For The Brain
Although these haven't been studied as much, low-carb and ketogenic diets may have several other benefits for the brain:
Memory: Older adults at risk of Alzheimer's disease have shown improvement in memory after following a very-low-carb diet for six weeks.
Brain function: Feeding older and obese rats a ketogenic diet leads to improved brain function.
Congenital hyperinsulinism: This condition causes hypoglycemia and can lead to brain damage. Congenital hyperinsulinism has been successfully treated with a ketogenic diet.
Migraine headaches: Researchers report that low-carb or ketogenic diets may provide relief to migraine sufferers.
Parkinson's disease: In a small, uncontrolled study, five out of seven people with Parkinson's disease who completed a four-week ketogenic diet experienced a 43% improvement in self-reported symptoms.
Traumatic brain injury: Patients with severe head injury who were fed a carb-free formula were able to obtain nourishment while avoiding high blood sugar, which can hinder recovery.
According to many studies, a ketogenic diet has powerful benefits for the brain. The strongest evidence shows that a keto diet can do wonders in treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children. There is also a lot of evidence that this low carb diet can reduce symptoms of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Further research is going on about its effects on patients with both of these brain disorders and similar disorders. Healthline discusses further how else the keto diet can help with brain health.
Beyond brain health, several studies continue to show us that a low-carb keto diet can result in weight loss as well as help with boosting metabolism, provide a body with more energy, and more.
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