Updated: Jun 14, 2021
You may have heard that you need glucose to fuel your brain. This is true, but it does not mean that you need carbohydrates.
If you do not get glucose from carbohydrates, your liver can make it from fat, using a process called gluconeogenesis.
So, if your dietary carbohydrate level is very low, such as if you are on a strict ketogenic or low carb diet, you are not putting your brain in any danger of being short of energy.
There is a 1997 movie titled “First Do No Harm” about a boy who develops seizures and is unable to be helped by standard medical interventions. The boy’s mother comes across information about the ability of a ketogenic diet to reduce seizures and, with much difficulty, manages to get her son onto this diet which gradually quietens his brain, reduces his seizures and enables him to grow up normally.
This Hollywood movie, directed by Jim Abrahams, which closely mimics the story of Jim’s own son Charlie, has fueled greater research into keto dietary options for epilepsy treatment. Jim Abrahams helped found the “Charlie Foundation” to provide information to everyone about the keto diet and application of this for seizure control. In 50% of people the seizures are reduced and in 15-25% the seizures are cured. See https://charliefoundation.org
Mild ketosis, it turns out, is optimal for cognitive function: beta-hydroxybutyrate (the most abundant ketone) increases production of the important neuron and synapse supporting molecule BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), among other effects. There is also a direct relationship showing that people with depression or anxiety have lower levels of BDNF, an important brain growth hormone, in their hippo-campus.
Alzheimer’s disease is another brain disease which may be helped by a ketogenic diet. Two-thirds of sufferers of this disease are women. Alzheimer’s disease is sometimes referred to as Type-3 diabetes as there is often a progression from Type-2 diabetes to Alzheimer’s. The insulin resistance I have referred to in recent blogs below is thought to be a significant risk factor in development of Alzheimer’s.
ReCODE, a program for halting the progression of Alzheimer’s disease developed by Dale E. Bredesen MD. and credited as being the first treatment to achieve this, identifies as their first intervention, the need to lower insulin via a low carbohydrate Keto diet.
Recent experimentation with high levels of coconut oil or MCT oil in the diets of some people with Alzheimer’s disease have shown positive benefits. Results have shown a significant return of independence in day-to-day activities such as dressing and eating. Apparently, a factor with Alzheimer’s is that the brain can become starved of energy by some problem that denies it access to glucose. The coconut oil or MCT oil provides the brain with ketones which it can use instead of glucose and this can be very beneficial short term.
The coconut oil, which is mostly saturated fat must be continued daily to maintain the benefit.
Can the Keto diet reduce depression? I have seen it said that a keto diet will increase depression because it is not sustainable and is therefore depressing. My experience of nearly 2 years on Keto is the opposite. It is not at all depressing. Sustaining it is simple. I love the food and take more interest in what I eat than ever before. I expect to remain on it for life quite happily. I have a nephew who has lost 17 kilograms on Keto and he says that it is “so easy to do”.
I have now come across a number of claims that a keto diet can help reverse depression.
Below is a link to an amusing but very informative video from ‘glamazini’ on Youtube, about how the keto diet reversed her depression. She describes her process of getting adapted to the diet:
Doctor Eric Westman, a very experienced Keto practitioner, has the following comments about the keto diet for depression:
Author: Take Back Your Health, Amazon $3.99 www.eldergeo.com