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Keto Diet: Secret To Brain Health

Ketone bodies improve overall energy reserves, synaptic control and ease the neuron excitability responsible for the seizures and neurodegeneration

For almost a century now, the keto diet has been known to successfully aid in the treatment of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a chronic condition characterized by recurrent seizures. Scientifically structured and closely monitored by experts, this diet has been known to have anti-convulsion effects. The original, classic ketogenic diet was developed by Wilder way back in 1921 with the purpose of mimicking the metabolic state achieved during chronic fasting. On a keto diet, the major source of energy is fats (about 80%), while protein (enough for growth) and carbohydrates (quantities insufficient for energy production) make up the remaining 20%.

With almost no carbohydrates available for energy production, the body turns to fat for energy while the protein is spared for muscular growth. When fat is metabolized, ketone bodies are produced as metabolic byproducts. These ketone bodies are beta-hydroxybutyric acid, acetoacetic acid and acetone. In the absence of glucose, these ketone bodies cross the blood-brain barrier and are used as fuel by the brain as well as other organs and tissues of the body.

Via maintaining a constant state of ketosis, this diet was carefully designed to alter neuronal metabolism, inhibit the expression of certain neurotransmitters and hence inhibit convulsions. Convulsions occur because of the hyperexcitability and rapid firing of the neurons. Ketone bodies are known to stabilize the rapid firing of the neural membranes thus providing anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects. Other than the initial days of keto flu (during which certain amount of a headache and gastrointestinal discomfort is common), this diet does not have any long-term harmful effects. When followed for a longer period, supplementing vitamins and minerals is mandatory. The slight rise in serum lipoproteins, if at all, is easily reversed after the diet is stopped.

The effects of this diet on seizure control are gradually developed over a period of one to three weeks which suggests that alterations in gene expression are involved in the anticonvulsant effects. Keto diet has also shown enhanced mitochondrial biogenesis which leads to enhanced energy production in the brain once again indicating anticonvulsant, neuroprotective effects.

The state of ketosis also enhances the generation of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain. PUFAs, in turn, increase the expression of uncoupling proteins which limits ROS generations which inhibits neural dysfunction and resultant neurodegeneration. Increased mitochondrial biogenesis is also a result of increased production of PUFA. The enhanced energy stores coupled with reduced glycolytic flux stabilizes synaptic control and improves seizure control.

Ketone bodies improve overall energy reserves, synaptic control and ease the neuron excitability responsible for the seizures and neurodegeneration.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Dr Siddhant Bhargava

Dr Siddhant Bhargava: co-founder and nutritionist, Food Darzee - a health and nutrition company

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