Ketogenic diets seem to be all the rage these days, but we haven’t seen much information out there about how these diets affect brain health, so here we go.
What are ketogenic diets anyway?
In the most basic terms, a ketogenic diet is one that is very low in carbohydrate consumption, and high in fats, which paradoxically leads the body to burn more fat for energy. If this sounds familiar to the once popular Atkins diet, it is, with the only real difference that the ketogenic diet is done all at once and not in phases like Atkins. Now the people at Atkins will have you believe that the Atkins diet is tried and true since its been around for 40+ years, while the ketogenic diet is a newcomer to the field. We are going to leave that one to your best judgment.
Ketogenic diets bring about the process of ketosis, which is a process under which your liver, when deprived of carbohydrates, turns fat into fatty acids and substances called ketones instead to create energy. While this diet probably will help you lose weight fast, safety and sustainability are open issues. Because its such a restrictive diet in terms of the types of foods that you can eat, you never know when your body and mind just gives up and you go on an all night cookie binge. And, there are no long term studies to indicate what effects this diet may have on your health over the long haul.
So does my brain get “bigger” on a ketogenic diet?
Ok, so we’ve covered the basics of what a ketogenic diet is, but does it have any benefits for brain health? The short answer is we don’t know—there isn’t a lot of medical guidance out there to show what, if any, impacts this diet has on brain health or performance. But our science team ferreted an interesting article on Scientific American that explains this very topic—you can read the article here.
To summarize, there is a good amount of promising anecdotal data, but there are no large, placebo-controlled trials to bear this out. Many neurological diseases exhibit a common problem—deficiencies in production of energy to fuel the brain, so the ketogenic diet definitely may help with that since the brain can derive energy from ketosis just as it would from a normal diet or metabolic processes. Also, ketones may have a direct impact on reducing a common neurological stress by increasing the activity of glutathione peroxidase, a well-known anti-oxidant.
We hope you found this helpful; there are no easy answers (surprise, surprise), but we try to give you the best information out there that we can. So, we will continue to monitor this issue. Stay tuned!