Ketone bodies and brain health: what is there to know? - Part 1

"I think of the brain as a computer that stops working when its components fail" - Stephen Hawking

your brain

The brain. Everything we do, what we experience, how we feel can be related to brain health. In addition, performance, whether physical or mental, always begins in the mind. Any strategy to improve how your brain works will bring you closer to your optimal self.

There are different theories about neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline, but there are several common factors in patients with eg Parkinson's and Alzheimer's/dementia.

Here are some common variables in flagging brains that are universal. So any strategy to prevent them will help you in the long run. Scientists in particular have discovered that signs of neurodegeneration begin as early as 20 years before official diagnosis. [1]

(1) Mitochondrial function is impaired (energy intake)

Mitochondria are the part of the cell responsible for converting macronutrients (carbohydrates, amino acids, fatty acids, and ketones) into ATP. This is important because it defines the cells' ability to absorb energy. The same goes for your brain. Mitochondria are essential for energy absorption, but when insulin isn't working properly, the ability to use glucose is compromised.

Now we have a brain that isn't getting all the energy it needs to function properly. This is very common in patients with metabolic syndrome. [2]

(See link "Metabolism Reset: What is Metabolic Syndrome?")

The mitochondria are also responsible for "autophagy", which is the process of cleaning damaged or unnecessary proteins.
Note: We need energy for everything, not just running or lifting weights, but also during sleep to clear out all the chaos that has accumulated during the day (adenosine). Better functioning mitochondria are translated into a better cleaning process. [3]

When the cleansing process is compromised, we accumulate damaged proteins that release toxic cytokines that cause inflammation and lead to neurodegeneration and cell death. [4] Note: When we fast or go at least 16 hours without eating, we actually activate a deep cleansing process called autophagy. All of those damaged proteins that absorb energy are cleaned for a more efficient system. [5]

Now we have a system that is unable to properly absorb the energy it needs, while also accumulating damaged proteins that it cannot clean properly, causing inflammation and eventually leading to cell death.

Finally, when we create energy, there is a product called reactive oxygen species (ROS). We need some, but too much can damage tissues and DNA. [6] Imagine following a U-shaped shape, none is bad, a little is beneficial because it induces "hormesis" (the body gets stronger with stress), and too much can cause undue damage. [7][8] A good example is training, which also follows a U-shape. Going beyond your current capacity could do more harm than good, while over the long term you experience progressive overload of stress you may end up doing an Ironman.

Therefore, ketone bodies play an interesting role in this world. They can act as an alternative source of glucose, enhance mitochondrial energy production, aid in cleansing, and even activate mitochondrial biogenesis. [9][10]

Note: The brain can get up to 85% of its energy from ketones. [11] There is a myth that your brain needs glucose to function. It does, but not from carbs. Without going into depth, we can endogenously make glucose from a variety of sources other than carbohydrates. That is why one can find people fasting for 382 days. [12] His brain had no problems.

(2) High inflammatory rate

Related to the first point, inflammation is a common variable in almost every disease, but also in the brain. [3] Note: Brain fog can be a result of brain inflammation. Usually the result of lifestyle choices from unhealthy diet, poor sleep, toxic environment, and overall health (stress, exercise, etc.).

What is the reason for this inflammation?
As previously mentioned, inflammation is an effect of the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The NLRP3 anti-inflammatory is the control center, and it works like a sensor, responding to things like toxins, excess glucose, amyloids, and cholesterol, as well as changes that can trigger inflammatory markers.
Ultimately, ketone bodies are shown to block the NLRP3 inflammasome, thereby reducing inflammation. [13]

(3) Oxidative stress

Finally, it's common to find increased accumulation of free radicals and reactive oxygen species from the mitochondria, which can lead to cellular damage and inflammation known as aging. Free radicals swim around stealing electrons from other molecules. They become a steel chain that increases damage. [6]

This is where antioxidants play an important role, as they release electrons that bind to the excess free radicals and bring them under control. This stabilizes and reduces the side effects. Note: The entire theory of aging and antioxidants is based on this premise.

Patients with the above variables show great signs of free radicals and ROS, so increasing antioxidant abilities may reduce inflammation in the brain.

  • Ketones have been shown to increase antioxidant coenzyme Q. [14]
  • Certain enzymes that prevent free radicals have quadrupled. [15]
  • A ketogenic diet increases mitochondrial decoupling of proteins. These are proteins in the mitochondria that release energy in the form of heat. They help against ROS. [16]
  • Lower oxidative stress and anti-inflammatory effect. [17]

Final Thoughts

These are the main brain changes induced by the use of ketone bodies, which are often associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Switching from just using glucose to both on-demand systems gives the brain the resources it needs to function properly. In addition to the above points, we have shown that ketone bodies act as neuroprotective agents by reducing cell death. [18]

Ultimately, ketone bodies improve cognition and reduce inflammation. [19][20]
See "Smarter with Ketones: How Can I Be Smarter?" for more.

Conclusion: Ketone bodies show up as an alternative source of energy for the brain when glucose uptake is compromised, similarly, ketones show anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities.

See "Ketone Bodies and Brain Health: In Which Medical Cases Can It Help? - Part 2" for more.

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