The brain is different as it is dependent on carbohydrates as a fuel source. This is because fats cannot easily cross the blood-brain barrier. The inability to make use of energy within fat poses a problem during periods where there is limited carbohydrate in the diet. If blood glucose levels fall to low, brain function declines. Relatively little energy is stored as carbohydrate (2,000 kCal) compared to fat (150,000 kCal). The body's store of carbohydrates runs out with a few days of carbohydrate restriction. Once glycogen is depleted, a cascade of hormonal signals causes the body to increase the release of stored fats (from adipose tissue). Signals include the fall in blood insulin, rise in a hormone called glucagon and an increase in cortisol (stress hormone) 1. The increase in blood fatty acids is a key trigger for ketone production (ketogenesis). Unlike fats, ketones are readily used as a fuel in the brain. Fatty acids are converted into ketone bodies in the liver, and ketones can provide up to 60% of the brain's energy requirements during starvation 2. The graph below shows how BHB (black triangles) builds up in the blood over many days until it reaches a level of around 6 mM.
The latest — or maybe just loudest — diet obsession transfixing the internet says it will help you lose weight, live longer, and improve your memory. Sounds great, you say? Except that these benefits will only bloom once you cut carbohydrates. Familiar story, right? The Atkins diet is back? We’re all gonna start eating eggs and bacon for every meal again until our cholesterol inevitably reaches code-red levels?
KBs can cross the BBB but not in a homogenous manner. For example, past experiments have demonstrated that BHB utilization is different in various brain areas (Hawkins and Biebuyck, 1979). Areas without BBB, hypothalamic regions and the lower cortical layers have a higher BHB metabolism compared to the lower one of the basal ganglia (Hawkins and Biebuyck, 1979). Also the metabolic meaning of the three KBs is different: while the main KB produced in the liver is AcAc, the primary circulating ketone is BHB. The third one, acetone, is produced by spontaneous decarboxylation of AcAc, and it is the cause of the classic “fruity breath.” Acetone does not have any metabolic functions, but it can be used as a clinical diagnostic marker. BHB acid is not, strictly speaking, a KB because the ketone moiety has been reduced to a hydroxyl group. Under normal conditions the production of free AcAc is negligible and this compound, transported via the blood stream, is easily metabolized by various tissues including skeletal muscles and the heart. In conditions of overproduction, AcAc accumulates above normal levels and a part is converted to the other two KBs. The presence of KBs in the blood and their elimination via urine causes ketonemia and ketonuria. Apart from being the fundamental energy supply for CNS, glucose is necessary for the replenishment of the quota of oxaloacetate, since this intermediate of the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA) is labile at body temperature and cannot be accumulated in the mitochondrial matrix. Hence it is necessary to refurnish the TCA with oxaloacetate via the anaplerotic cycle that derives it from glucose through ATP dependent carboxylation of pyruvic acid by pyruvate carboxylase (Jitrapakdee et al., 2006). This pathway is the only way to create oxaloacetate in mammals. Once produced by the liver, KBs are used by tissues as a source of energy (Fukao et al., 2004; Veech, 2004; McCue, 2010): initially BHB is converted back to AcAc that is subsequently transformed into Acetoacetyl-CoA that undergoes a reaction producing two molecules of Acetyl-CoA to be used in the Krebs cycle (Figure (Figure22).
Move more. You’ll lose pounds faster if you increase your daily physical activity. Keep in mind you don’t have to go to the gym 6 times a week or jog every morning, just move more in your everyday life. For instance, take a short 2-minute break from sitting in your chair every hour, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to make errands if you can, get a standing desk, or take phone calls standing up and pacing around. These small calorie-burning movements add up at the end of the day.
I’m honestly a little skeptical about it the idea of keto permanently. My brief glance at the literature seems to imply that it can have side effects of kidney stones, skeletal fractures, and slow the growth rate of children, but that was a study on kids with epilepsy (which it treated very effectively), so who knows how that applies to adults. And the other studies I found dealt with overweight and obese subjects, so it may be hard to find something on the long term effects on otherwise healthy adults.
The first group of 75 consumed a low-carbohydrate diet with less than 40 grams of carbohydrates per day. The second group of 73 consumed a low-fat diet with less than 30% of calories from fat and less than 7% of calories from saturated fat. Both groups regularly received nutritional counseling periodically throughout the study meeting with each participant meeting with a dietitian for a total of 10 sessions
Although many hypotheses have been put forward to explain how the ketogenic diet works, it remains a mystery. Disproven hypotheses include systemic acidosis (high levels of acid in the blood), electrolyte changes and hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose). Although many biochemical changes are known to occur in the brain of a patient on the ketogenic diet, it is not known which of these has an anticonvulsant effect. The lack of understanding in this area is similar to the situation with many anticonvulsant drugs.
I agree that everyone should find the eating lifestyle that works best for them. On my part, keto reversed my high blood sugar & associated side effects that are now none existent. I also find it funny that many say there’s little research around Keto or Paleo type of diet yet before the discovery of grain & sugar out diets were pretty much meat, nuts, greens & depending on availability fruit. I come from East Africa & both my grandfather & great grand father only ate organic meat & vegetables….never touched carbohydrates, they both lived beyond 100 years …..This is the norm in most African families….. cancer, HBP & Diabetes seem to have surfaced with the introduction of sugar & refined carbs in our diets ……
Pro Tip: Kick-start ketosis with a teaspoon or two of MCT oil or Brain Octane Oil. MCT oils are medium-chain triglyceride fats that bypass the lymphatic system entirely and are uniquely absorbed by the liver in much the same way as carbs. In the liver, they are quickly converted into ketone bodies rather than glucose (carbs), so they’ll expedite the keto process.
Hi Ben…first, I have learned so much from you, thank you! I’m interested in using exogenous ketone supplements and I have a question for you. I just read the transcript of an interview Dave Asprey did with Dr. Richard Veech (episode 299). He advises against them, and says they can even be harmful. I was disappointed to read this, and wanted to ask you about it, since I respect your opinion greatly….thank you.
After that happened, I set out once again to find some kind of carbohydrate source that allows one to maintain elevated liver glycogen and muscle glycogen stores without getting all the blood-sugar level roller coaster rides or gut rot and fermentation that many typical sports nutrition carbohydrate sources such as fructose and maltodextrin can cause.
Finally, an important consideration is the effect of the ketogenic diet on blood lipids. This is because the levels of various lipids in the blood have been shown to predict the likelihood of cardiovascular disease. Lipids and cholesterol are carried through the blood in biochemical assemblies called ‘lipoproteins,’ because they do not dissolve in water. There are two broad classes of lipoproteins in the blood: high density lipoprotein (HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL is thought of as more ‘healthy’ (H = ‘Healthy’) because it responsible for moving cholesterol and lipids from the peripheral tissues into the liver for metabolism. LDL is demonised as bad cholesterol (L = ‘Lethal’), levels are elevated after a fatty meal and elevated LDL is associated with cholesterol build up in the arteries.
Gut health is extremely important for anyone looking to lose weight and increase overall health[*][*]. It is not uncommon for those who shift to a ketogenic diet to have a change in the production of bacteria in their colon (although not necessarily a bad thing – just a change)[*]. To help support this change and increase the healthy bacteria in your gut, try consuming more fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi or kefir and/or supplement with a high-quality probiotic[*][*].