Try A Ketogenic Diet To Boost Cognition & Protect Your Brain

Try A Ketogenic Diet To Boost Cognition & Protect Your Brain

The ketogenic diet is one of the most popular diets for good reason: In addition to improving metabolic function, it can improve how your brain works. Originally designed to treat epilepsy (ketones, a byproduct of fat metabolism, lower the seizure threshold in the brain compared to glucose), the ketogenic diet has a slew of health benefits.

A typical ketogenic diet has you eating the majority of your calories from fat (75%), with 20% coming from protein and only 5% from carbohydrates. Because the ketogenic diet restricts how many carbs you can eat, it lowers glucose and insulin levels. Because a ketogenic diet will reset your metabolism, it can lead to substantial weight loss, lower diabetes risk, and decreased appetite.

Just as important, the ketogenic diet also lowers risk of neurological disease and improves brain function. It is of special relevance for older folks because it helps to reduce the cognitive decline that occurs with aging.

Research shows that as we age, the brain’s ability to utilize glucose (blood sugar) decreases. This results in poorer memory, brain fog, and an overall reduction in cognitive function. The ketogenic diet is a powerful alternative because it requires the brain to utilize ketones for a portion of its energy needs.

The brain still gets a portion of energy from glucose (around 50 grams), but this is supplied when the liver breaks down other energy sources, such as glycerol (from dietary fat or fat tissue in the body), lactate and pyruvate (produced from glycolysis), and from amino acids (from protein).

The great thing about the ketogenic diet is that because insulin levels go down, the brain is better able to use glucose. This combination—the brain burning ketones and better glucose uptake—improves cognition and reduces risk of cognitive decline and brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

How To Use A Ketogenic Diet For A Better Brain:

The typical ratios of a ketogenic (75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs) can be modified based on individual needs and goals. An initial 2 week adaptation period is necessary during which carbs are kept to below 50 grams a day.

You’ll be eating a lot of fat so it’s important to stick with healthy fat sources: Nuts, fish, seeds, eggs, full-fat dairy, avocados, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, cheese. Steer clear of processed fats, soybean and other vegetable oils, and trans fats.

Get your fiber by eating low-carb vegetables at every meal.

You may want to use a ketogenic diet as a short-term solution or cycle it into a regular diet every 3 months or so. This way you can enjoy a higher carb intake every so often, while still getting the metabolic benefits.

You may need to supplement with certain nutrients (magnesium, sodium, and potassium) that are depleted on a ketogenic diet.

Consider working with an experienced dietitian or doctor who can help you troubleshoot problem areas and monitor blood work.