When it comes to the keto diet and the potential benefits of going extremely high-fat/low-carb, most people tend to focus on weight loss and increased energy as the main highlights – though those aren’t the only things the keto diet can potentially do for you.
Though many people “go keto” in an effort to more quickly reach their weight loss goals, others do it specifically for their overall wellness, as there are a number of potential health benefits from entering ketosis. Of those benefits, an aspect that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should is following the ketogenic diet for brain health.
The research shows that since ketones are an efficient source of fuel (arguably even a better source than glucose), they can absolutely help boost the function and workings of the brain, resulting in positive effects for daily mental focus and productivity.
Let’s dig a little deeper regarding brain ketones vs. glucose for fuel, and potential keto diet benefits for brain health in this article…
Read on to discover more!
Brain Health: Ketones vs. Glucose
If you’re new to the keto diet, you may still be anxious to learn how it all works. For instance, why do you have to eat such a low amount of carbs, and high amount of fat to get into ketosis? For reference, the typical dietary recommendation when following keto is to eat roughly 70-75% of your daily diet from fat, 20-25% from protein and only 5-10% from carbs. However, everyone is unique… To get a more accurate picture of your daily macro goals based on your personal details, you can check out this free keto calculator.
That being said, why exactly is the keto carb count so low (and the fat count so high)? It all has to do with glucose vs. ketones in your body. Whereas your body, (and brain), typically run on glucose – which is a sugar found in your blood that comes from eating carbohydrates – you need to reduce your internal supply of it in order for ketosis to happen.
What’s ketosis? It’s a metabolic state that your body enters when there isn’t enough glucose around to use for energy; In this state, your liver starts to produce something called ketones from fat, which take the place of the glucose you typically use for fuel. And some experts believe it’s an even more efficient form of fuel than glucose, offering superior benefits for your body and brain.
Now, when it comes down to a solid answer on brain ketones vs. glucose as to which is actually better for your body, experts are split. There is no set answer, however, the research is definitely clear that when you’re in ketosis and your brain is running mostly on ketones, some pretty cool things can happen…
Ketogenic Diet For Brain Health: 3 Major Benefits
Curious how having more ketones in your body might be able to positively affect your mental performance? Read on for 3 major ways…
1) Improved Brain Function
Going back to how many believe that ketones are a more efficient source of fuel, it all begins with how the brain utilizes them vs. glucose. The brain uses ketones to generate something called adenosine triphosphate (or ATP) – a molecule that’s necessary for energy and metabolism within your cells.
When the brain uses ketones for energy, the ketones can actually reduce the amount of potentially-harmful free radicals produced – having a protective effect on the brain and the rest of the body. When free radicals are allowed to run rampant in the body and form in excess, it can result in a state called oxidative stress, which is basically a state of high inflammation – which can negatively affect mental performance and brain aging. However, by keeping free radicals under control, ketones can help reduce inflammation and positively influence brain function.
2) Less Brain Fog
Speaking of helping with brain function, ketones can also help instill a sense of clarity, and get rid of that “brain fog” that’s so detrimental to productivity. Basically, they can help with mental focus.
So, how does this work? Based on your diet and if you aren’t eating as healthy as you should, your body can become unbalanced, within your brain as well. For instance, two important neurotransmitters for brain health, glutamate and GABA, are essential for brain function and learning – but sometimes you can end up with too much glutamate and not enough GABA.
When you don’t have enough GABA, the result is a brain that is over-firing without being able to handle the increased stimulation. GABA is therefore needed to reduce stress and anxiety and improve concentration. Going back to ketones, they actually help increase the production of GABA. So, what’s the result? Less brain fog and improved mental focus, along with lower overall stress levels.
3) Enhanced Memory
Finally, can the keto diet benefit your memory as well? Research shows that it can, and here’s how…
Ketones can actually improve the efficiency levels of the mitochondria – which could be seen as the “batteries”, or power sources for your body’s cells. In addition, they can help make new mitochondria and increase ATP, (or the energy transporters), in your brain’s memory cells; Basically, they provide better fuel for your memory.
In one study demonstrating this, older adults who were at risk for Alzheimer’s disease showed memory improvement following a very low-carb diet for six weeks. In another study using rats, ketosis improved cognitive performance, specifically working memory during a maze test.