A new addition to the “Ketone Benefits Series”

Most of the research included is from Dr. David Perlmutter from his books “Grain Brain” and “Brain Maker”, as well as research from Dr. Dominic D’Agostino.

The short term effects of ketone production, through ketogenic diet or supplementation of exogenous ketones and medium chain triglycerides, have been shown to almost immediately enhance memory, clarity, attention, alertness and cognition. Countless tests have been done correlating heightened brain function to the use of fatty acids as the primary substrate for metabolism. These results prove ketones to be one of the most effective and side effect free “brain hacks” today.

Here’s why:

Through the breakdown of fatty acids in the liver, ketones are produced to be used as fuel throughout the body and have been found to act as a form of “rocket fuel” for the brain. In comparison to glucose, the most common substrate for brain metabolism in a standard western diet, ketones are a far more efficient fuel source, leaving fewer detrimental byproducts and using less oxygen in the energy production process. A large reason we see such drastic improvements in brain function under the influence of ketones is that cellular respiration is improved, and mitochondrial biogenesis is up-regulated in the brain. Which means, this alternative fuel source is not only fueling a more efficient generator but stimulating the growth of more generators to produce more energy, resulting in improvements in cognition, memory and clarity. As Dr. David Perlmutter states in his NY Times Best Selling Book “Grain Brain”, “it stimulates the growth of mitochondria and thus increases metabolic efficiency.”

Another big issue with glucose as a primary fuel source for the brain is the byproducts produced during glycolysis, or the breakdown of glucose for energy. It has been shown that glucose fuel production results in high amounts of glutamate buildup, which is the major excitatory neurotransmitter found in the central nervous system. Build up of glutamate results in over excitement of neurons in the brain, and manifests as brain fog and inability to focus. Ketone research has shown that the process of using ketones as fuel in the brain promotes pathways in which glutamate is converted to glutamine, which is a substrate for the production of GABA, the most prominent inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system. In short, the use of ketones in the brain, takes the detrimental byproducts of glucose that hinder cognition, and turns it into a neurotransmitter that promotes focus and heightened cognition.

Perhaps it is easiest to see the brain effects of ketones by looking at extreme cases. We have seen that ketones are able to reach areas of the brain that otherwise can’t be by glucose due to insulin resistance in Alzheimers patients. Even in relatively “healthy” brains small amounts of insulin resistance could result in lack of available energy causing impaired brain function. The metabolic pathway opened by ketones can bypass insulin dependency and wake dormant areas of the brain, improving memory, mental clarity and cognition.

When we talk about the efficiency of any sort of aerobic metabolism, we must consider the amount of oxygen consumed in the energy production process. Another incredible “brain hack” effect of ketones and ketogenic diets is the improvement in the ratio of oxygen input to energy output. Meaning the process of creating energy from ketones takes less oxygen per resulting unit of energy, or ATP, than glucose. Dr. Dominic D’Agostino has done more work than anyone in the area of oxygen consumption in the brain and ketone effects on regulation. He has found that, “Ketones preserve brain metabolism in the face of an oxidative challenge”, and in relation to the oxygen efficiency that ketones provide, he has found that breath hold duration improves drastically by default under ketogenic metabolism in the brain. In the case of under water divers, the time spent holding a single breath under water has nearly doubled, which is a great representation of the oxygen efficiency of ketones.

These are a few main contributors to the noticeable mental and cognitive improvements prompted by a ketogenic diet or ketogenic supplementation. There are a wide range of benefits from ketones covered in other videos in this series, as well as benefits from avoiding excess carbohydrates, which come hand in hand with a diet that relies heavily on fat metabolism.

Until next time…

Keep going against the grain!


5 Replies to ““Keto Brain Hack” Ketogenic Diet Effects on the Brain (Dr. Perlmutter/D’Agostino)”

  1. It's best not to mix cute metaphors like "rocket fuel" (kerosene) with actual scientific statements. It makes it sound like an ad for a scam product.

    Although in the keto community, "ketone" is casually used to refer to what biologists/dietitians call "ketone bodies", it is best to make the distinction. A ketone is anything with a carbonyl group (oxygen double-bonded to a carbon) bonded to two other parts of the molecule. Fructose is thus a ketone. A ketone body is a molecule of acetone, acetoacetate or β-hydroxybutyrate.

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