Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Your Brain On Ketones

"And now let's really get down to the mitochondrial level. Mitochondria are the power plants of our cells, where all the energy is produced (as ATP). Now, when I was taught about biochemical fuel-burning, I was taught that glucose was "clean" and ketones were "smokey." That glucose was clearly the preferred fuel for our muscles for exercise and definitely the key fuel for the brain. Except here's the dirty little secret about glucose - when you look at the amount of garbage leftover in the mitochondria, it is actually less efficient to make ATP from glucose than it is to make ATP from ketone bodies! A more efficient energy supply makes it easier to restore membranes in the brain to their normal states after a depolarizing electrical energy spike occurs, and means that energy is produced with fewer destructive free radicals leftover."

What is the significance of the above to you, dear reader?  Mainly that it is another indicator that a high fat, minimal carb diet which supports ketone production is healthy for the noodle.  As the author says:

"What does it all mean? Well, in the brain, energy is everything. The brain needs a great deal of energy to keep all those membrane potentials maintained - to keep pushing sodium out of the cells and pulling potassium into the cells. In fact, the brain, which is only 2% of our body weight, uses 20% of our oxygen and 10% of our glucose stores just to keep running. (Some cells in our brain are actually too small (or have tendrils that are too small) to accommodate mitochondria (the power plants). In those places, we must use glucose itself (via glycolysis) to create ATP.)
When we change the main fuel of the brain from glucose to ketones, we change amino acid handling. And that means we change the ratios of glutamate and GABA. The best responders to a ketogenic diet for epilepsy end up with the highest amount of GABA in the central nervous system.  One of the things the brain has to keep a tight rein on is the amount of glutamate hanging out in the synapse. Lots of glutamate in the synapse means brain injury, or seizures, or low level ongoing damaging excito-toxicity as you might see in depression. The brain is humming along, using energy like a madman. Even a little bit more efficient use of the energy makes it easier for the brain to pull the glutamate back into the cells. And that, my friends, is a good thing."

Eat meat, eggs and vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch and no sugar/wheat.

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