Keto and the Brain

    Written by Joseph Claussen, Co-Founder


    About the Author:

    Joseph has 20+ years of leadership experience in high-touch luxury industries. For the past five years, he has worked exclusively on mycology & plant medicine supply chain development with a focus on mushroom cultivation and extraction, nutrition science, health coaching, cognitive health, metabolic function, and product development in CPG supplements. Joseph is an avid speaker and cognitive health evangelist.


    Allow me to share a deeply personal story that has shaped my life—a journey dedicated to achieving optimal brain health through the ketogenic lifestyle. Faced with a familial history of Alzheimer's and my own history of traumatic brain injuries sustained during high school football, car accidents, and snowboarding mishaps, I embarked on a quest to not only enhance my daily cognitive function but also safeguard and sustain this function over time. Over the past decade, this dietary path has wrought transformative changes in my life, resulting in enduring weight loss and astonishing improvements in cognitive function, mood, and vitality.

    Around a decade ago, my quest for a healthier and more vibrant life led me to an exploration of the ketogenic lifestyle. My motivation extended far beyond weight loss; it was rooted in a desire for superior brain function and long-term cognitive well-being.

    Understanding the Ketogenic Lifestyle

    Before we delve into the transformative impact of the ketogenic lifestyle on brain health, let's briefly grasp the fundamentals of this extraordinary nutritional approach.

    The ketogenic lifestyle, often known simply as "keto," centers around a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, and moderate-protein composition. Its primary aim is to induce a state of ketosis, where the body shifts from using carbohydrates as the primary energy source to metabolizing fats. During this process, the liver generates ketone bodies, such as beta-hydroxybutyrate, which become a reliable and steady energy source for the brain.

    Unlocking the Benefits for Brain Health

    Heightened Cognitive Function

    My ketogenic journey has brought about a remarkable enhancement in cognitive function. The constant and unwavering energy provided by ketones has elevated my focus, concentration, and mental clarity. Gone are the days of blood sugar roller-coasters that accompany high-carb diets; instead, I relish a steady and heightened cognitive performance.

    A study published in the journal "Psychopharmacology" in 2018 corroborated my personal experience, revealing that individuals adhering to a ketogenic lifestyle for six weeks displayed enhanced working memory and sustained attention compared to those on a standard diet. This research underscores the potential of the ketogenic lifestyle to elevate cognitive function in otherwise healthy individuals.

    Management of Neurological Disorders

    The ketogenic lifestyle has demonstrated its effectiveness in managing neurological disorders. During my journey, I discovered the historical application of the ketogenic lifestyle in treating epilepsy, especially in cases unresponsive to conventional medications.

    A study published in "Epilepsia" in 2008 demonstrated that the ketogenic lifestyle significantly reduced seizure frequency, with 47% of participants experiencing a greater than 50% reduction in seizure activity. The profound impact on neurological disorders further solidified my commitment to this lifestyle.

    Promising Potential for Mood Disorders

    What resonated deeply with me was the ketogenic lifestyle's potential in addressing mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Life inevitably brings stressors—be it financial, relational, or other challenges. Having a brain that functions optimally equips me to better navigate these challenges.

    While ongoing research is crucial to fully understand the mechanisms at play, emerging evidence suggests that the ketogenic lifestyle may positively impact mood and emotional well-being. A study published in "Nutrients" in 2019 investigated the effects of a ketogenic lifestyle on depressive symptoms and found a significant reduction in depression scores among participants who adhered to the lifestyle for 12 weeks. These findings offer hope to those seeking alternative approaches to manage mood disorders.

    Neuroprotection and Enhanced Brain Energy

    The ketogenic lifestyle extends its reach to neuroprotection, a crucial element in preserving the structure and function of brain neurons. This is especially vital in the context of neurodegenerative conditions and traumatic brain injuries.

    A study published in the "Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism" in 2015 explored the neuroprotective effects of a ketogenic lifestyle in a mouse model of traumatic brain injury. The lifestyle was found to reduce neuronal cell loss and improve cognitive outcomes following injury, highlighting its potential for neuroprotection.

    Enhanced Brain Energy

    The brain, as you may know, is an organ with a high energy demand. The ketogenic lifestyle excels in enhancing brain energy production by utilizing ketone bodies as an efficient and direct fuel source for the brain. This remarkable achievement provides the brain with a stable and readily accessible source of energy.

    A study published in "Cell Metabolism" in 2017 utilized advanced neuroimaging techniques to reveal that the ketogenic lifestyle increased brain adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels, indicating elevated energy production within the brain.

    Reducing Oxidative Stress

    The ketogenic diet has been shown to reduce oxidative stress in the brain. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body's ability to neutralize or repair the resulting damage. This imbalance can lead to cellular and tissue damage, including in the brain, and is associated with various neurological and neurodegenerative disorders.

    There are several mechanisms through which the ketogenic diet may help reduce oxidative stress in the brain:

    Ketone bodies: When you follow a ketogenic diet, your body produces ketone bodies, such as beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), as an alternative fuel source in the absence of glucose. Ketone bodies have been shown to have antioxidant properties, acting as free radical scavengers, reducing ROS production, and enhancing the body's antioxidant defense systems.

    Reduced glucose metabolism: The ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrate intake, lowering blood glucose levels. High glucose levels can contribute to oxidative stress through processes like glycation and mitochondrial dysfunction. By reducing glucose metabolism and insulin levels, the ketogenic diet may help lower oxidative stress in the brain.

    Enhanced mitochondrial function: The ketogenic diet improves mitochondrial function in cells, which play a crucial role in energy production and ROS generation. Enhanced mitochondrial function can reduce the production of ROS and oxidative stress.

    Inflammation reduction: The ketogenic diet is associated with reduced inflammation in the body, and inflammation is closely linked to oxidative stress. By reducing inflammation, the diet may indirectly lower oxidative stress in the brain.

    Neuroprotection: Some studies suggest that the ketogenic diet may offer neuroprotective effects by providing an alternative energy source and enhancing the brain's resilience to metabolic challenges, thereby protecting neurons from oxidative damage.

    My journey with the ketogenic lifestyle has not only brought about a significant transformation in my physical and cognitive well-being but has also ignited a profound appreciation for the potential of this dietary approach. As a founder of First Person, my mission is to explore and share insights that empower you to lead a healthier and more fulfilling life of optimal brain health. Through my journey, I have personally experienced the transformative power of the ketogenic lifestyle, and I encourage others to embark on this journey with the guidance of a healthcare professional, especially if you have specific health concerns or are considering its therapeutic application.



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