Want to keep your brain in its best possible shape? Staying mentally sharp and fending off cognitive decline might be as simple as switching up your diet. New research suggests there may be a connection between cognitive impairment – and even conditions like Alzheimer’s disease – and the keto diet.
Keto could be the key to fighting cognitive issues later in life. The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat that gets the body into ketosis so it begins burning fat instead of its usual glucose as the primary fuel source. Once you’re in ketosis, your body produces ketone bodies, which are great for your brain.
We’re breaking down the facts about going keto and keeping your mind sharp.
What you feed your body also fuels your brain
As scientists work to better understand different types of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease, they’re learning increasingly more about how the brain operates. One new theory about Alzheimer’s disease involves brain energy metabolism.
Your brain runs primarily on glucose. This sugar keeps all of the brain’s most critical capabilities running smoothly, delivering energy and controlling physiological brain function. However, when you’re living with Alzheimer’s disease, your brain struggles to use the glucose it needs. It appears that as the disease progresses, glucose levels can change, and some brain cells can fail to use any glucose at all as brain energy metabolism slows down.
However, a new study published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy shows that the keto diet may help the brain as it switches your body to an alternative fuel source. Researchers examined participants, all of whom had Alzheimer’s disease, over a 12-week period. Some followed the keto diet while others did not. At the end of the study’s run, those on the keto diet had lower blood glucose levels and higher ketones.
And those increased ketones actually led to small but noticeable improvements in cognition. The participants who tried the keto diet saw a significant improvement in their daily function and quality of life in particular. These benefits, the study’s authors noted, rarely happen with Alzheimer’s medications.
While more research is needed to see just how significant of an effect the keto diet might have on individuals with Alzheimer’s, there’s already a positive connection. Fueling your body to increase ketones could benefit the brain, specifically when it comes to how your brain is putting its fuel to use.
Changing your gut’s fungus could also play a role in your risk for Alzheimer’s disease
Ketones may not be the only benefit that the keto diet offers when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease. Another study has discovered that the keto diet’s effect on your gut could also have a positive effect on the brain.
It turns out the keto diet can significantly alter what’s happening inside your gut, and those changes can help your brain. Researchers found that individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is linked to dementia, have a unique gut bacterial signature. They have a less diverse mix of fungi in their guts compared to the average person.
So, researchers placed the study’s participants – most of whom had MCI or Alzheimer’s disease – on either a low-carb, high-fat keto diet or the low-fat, high-carb American Heart Association diet. After six weeks, those who tried the Keto diet increased their gut fungi diversity. Certain biomarkers that indicate a high risk for Alzheimer’s disease also decreased.
Most importantly of all, sticking with the keto diet appeared to limit Candida. The keto diet seemed to stop this particular fungus from growing inside participants’ guts. Candida can cause inflammation, a major player in your risk for Alzheimer’s and other inflammatory conditions. This may be what draws the link between a lower risk for Alzheimer’s and the keto diet.
Keep your diet in mind when thinking about your brain’s health
If you want to put habits into practice now to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of impaired cognition later in life, the keto diet may be worth trying.
Keeping your brain sharp and functioning well is tied to what you’re eating. Based on the studies mentioned here, both increased ketones and a more diverse balance of gut fungi can offer mental benefits. A low-carb, gut-centric diet could help you achieve just the right combination of brain-boosting health advantages.
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