Got ketones drdebbrain

Ketones are the preferred fuel source for our brains

What is Ketosis?

Like most people, I did not know what ketosis was or whether having ketones in the body was a good thing or not. Ketosis by definition is the just the state of having ketones in our body. Since most of us have always eaten a carbohydrate-based diet, which uses glucose as the main fuel for our brains to run on, we did not know there was anything different. However, recently I have done a lot of research and found a huge body literature supporting the multiple benefits of having ketones in our bodies and using it for fuel instead of glucose.

I recently had the honor to listen to Dr. Stephen Cunnane, one of the leading researchers on nutrition and brain development, speak on his research about ketones as fuel for the brain. I have a few take-aways from that talk and from his recent article, published in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience that I would like to share to, hopefully, help show that having ketones in our bodies is indeed a good thing

Ketones are the preferred fuel source for the brain

It has been known since the 1960s, that ketones are the alternative fuel source, instead of glucose, for the brain. Dr Cahill at that time showed that the liver would produces ketones when glucose levels were low, as a way of survival during times of fasting or starvation.

The amount of ketones that are taken up into the cells of the brain is directly related to the amount of ketones that are present in the blood. Such that, the more ketones that are present in the blood, the more ketones will be taken up into the brain to be used. This is different than glucose, which is pulled into the brain cells based on the brain’s energy needs. Glucose also requires the presence of insulin to open the door for glucose to get into the cells (which is an issue in some neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Dementia).

In adults, the liver only produces ketones when glucose supplies are low, so ketones and glucose have not been available at the same time. Now that exogenous therapeutic ketones have been developed, your body can actually have ketones present even when glucose is also around. Thus, the body potentially now can have two different fuel sources in the body at the same time. So which one does the brain prefer? Dr Cunnane researched just that question, and with the use of PET scans to show the amount uptake of glucose and ketones in the brain. He found that that amount of glucose utilization in the brain decreases as the availability of ketones to the brain increases. I.e. if the energy needs of the brain are being meet by ketones, glucose uptake decreases. Thus when ketones are around, they are actually the preferred energy substrate for the brain.

Ketones are essential to the developing infant’s brain

Ketones are essential to the developing infant. In the neonatal brain, there is insufficient glucose available to meet the very high-energy needs of the growing brain thus; it must rely heavily on ketones for fuel. Ketones are not only needed as a fuel but they are also the main substrate needed for brain lipid synthesis (brain development). Even after the infant is born the infant’s brain relies on ketones for fuel. Thus, the infant remains in a sustained state of ketosis. This ketosis is not a function of food restriction (or low glucose levels) but is due to the medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are supplied from the breast milk (and some formulas). The MCFAs are then stored in the infant’s adipose tissue. After breast-feeding ends, the adipose tissues provide will enough fats for ketones to be produced for many months.

So, in summary, being in ketosis is very natural. It is the body’s way to be protective of our brain during times of starvation or fasting. It is also probably also the diet of our ancestors. It is also a very natural state, since we are born in ketosis and with breast milk stay in ketosis through out infancy. Lastly, our brain actually prefers ketones over glucose. Are you ready to see how good your brain feels with it is fueled with ketones?

Got ketones drdebbrain

Bibliography

Cunnane, S. C. (2016). Can Ketones Help Rescue Brain Fuel Supply in Later life? Implications for Cognitive Health during Aging and the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience , 9, 1-21.
The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Closeup of bulletproof coffee with cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil and grass fed organic butter on wooden table, part of ketogenic diet

Ketogenic Diet Basics

What is the Ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate, high fat diet. Yes, I said high fat. Don’t worry: eating fats are no longer the enemy; they are actually our friend if you want a healthy brain and body. (Glucose and carbohydrates are actually the enemy). When you decrease the amount of carbohydrates and increase the amount of fats in your diet, your body goes into the metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis is the process by which your body starts the break down fats and turns it into ketones. Ketones are another fuel source for our bodies, which then can be used as a fuel instead of glucose.

What are the potential benefits of eating a Ketogenic diet?

The research on the uses of the ketogenic diet is extensive and is still growing. The ketogenic diet has been used for the treatment of poorly controlled seizures since the 1920s. Research now shows potential benefits for many other neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches, along with traumatic brain injury, depression, anxiety, ADD, and even autism. Besides the brain benefits, the ketogenic diet has been shown to help many medical issues including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis.

How do I start the Ketogenic diet?

A standard ketogenic diet consists of having your diet consist of 5% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 75% fats.

Foods to eat:

  • Meats: Red meats, sausage, bacon, ham, pork, game meat, chicken, etc. Also eat the fat on the meat as well as the skin on the chicken.
  • Fatty Fish: Salmon, trout, mackerel, and tuna
  • Eggs: Yes you can eat the whole egg!
  • Oils: Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
  • Butters, creams, and cheese: Use full fat options and all natural grass fed butter
  • Nuts: Walnuts, almond, macadamia nuts, flax seed, and pumpkin seeds
  • Vegetables: Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant and spinach
  • Avocados 

Foods to avoid:

caution-carbs-

Basically any food that are high in carbohydrates should be limited, especially watch for hidden carbs in the so-called ‘low fat foods’.

 

  • Foods high in sugars: soda, fruit juices, smoothies, candies, pasties etc.
  • Grains: wheat, pasta, oatmeal, cereals, and rice
  • High carb vegetables: potatoes, corn, and carrots
  • Beans: kidney beans, chickpeas, and refried beans
  • Artificial sweeteners and processed foods
  • Unhealthy fats: margarines and vegetable oils
  • Alcohol
  • Fruits 

Are there any side effects from the Ketogenic diet?

Often people notice symptoms when first starting a ketogenic diet called “the keto flu”. These symptoms of nausea, digestive discomfort, increased hunger, headaches and fatigue, typically improve after a few days. There are several suggestions that can help.  One is going a little slower with both decreasing off the carbohydrates and increasing the fats. Another suggestion is drinking more water. I also recommend adding some more minerals to your diet such as by adding Himalayan salt to your water along starting a magnesium supplement.

Are there any supplements that I should take?

As discussed above I typically recommend taking magnesium supplement. There are a couple of other ways to increase your ketone levels including adding MCT oils to your coffee or drink. Second there is a ketone salt supplement that I highly recommend which helps to keep you in a state of ketosis even when your diet is not 100% on tract.

Do you want help starting a ketogenic diet? Message me by filling out form below.

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