The keto diet is widely famous. There's no denying that. You might have heard about the keto diet from your friend who lost 10 kgs in no time or perhaps from a celebrity swearing by the glorious diet. The keto diet delivers impressive results to all those who stay true to their keto journey.
When you cut down carbs from your diet, amazing things happen to your body. It enters a metabolic state known as ketosis, which is primarily responsible for breaking stored-fats into ketones for energy production.
But that is not all that the keto diet does. Keto diet has been around in the medical field for many years. It first started off with vowing to help epileptic children control their seizures back in the late 1920s. Much recently, it has been found to reduce inflammation, improve brain health and mental clarity.
The positive effects of the keto diet for brain health can be explained in two ways.
- Keto diet regulating the blood sugar levels
- Keto diet directly acting on brain cells
Let's first understand the effects of the keto diet on brain health by regulating blood sugar levels.
How Are Sugar Levels Related To The Brain?
Have you ever experienced the sugar rush? You know, the high energy after having carb-rich food?
When you eat high carb food, your body has ample carbs in the blood, which are actively converted into sugars called glucose. Higher the levels of glucose, the higher are the levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a mood regulator hormone. Once its concentration raises, you feel over-excited.
Similarly, when you starve yourself for long periods, your blood sugar levels drop, which results in decreased dopamine levels. Consequently, you feel low.
How Regulating Blood Sugar Level Impacts The Brain?
Regulating your sugar levels can help control your mood. And, one of the ways to control the spikes in your sugar levels is following the keto diet. The keto diet can play an essential role in the brain and emotional health.
With the keto diet, you are cutting down your carbs intake. It leads to a lower amount of sugar in your blood, but not extreme enough as in the state of hunger. Research suggests that when you have controlled sugar levels, you are less fatigued, have a better mood and feel chirpy.
So keto diet regulates the blood sugar levels, thus keeping the mind balanced. Now, let's see how the keto diet can help improve memory skills and mental clarity.
A study was conducted for 119 overweight individuals to evaluate how effective the keto diet is for brain health. The study compared the keto diet with a high-carb diet. The study concluded that the keto diet was more useful in controlling depression, increases the ability to concentrate, reduced frequent memory problems and anger fits.
Research suggests that there are three ways through which the keto diet helps improve brain health, causing improved mental clarity and better emotional health.
1.Release of GABA
The keto diet puts the body under a metabolic state called ketosis. Research suggests that that ketosis stimulates the brain to produce an optimum concentration of GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter that produces a calming effect, alleviates anxiety, depression and reduces the symptoms of seizures. Your body needs a balanced amount of GABA to function correctly. Currently, our eating habits consist of overdoing carbs. Over time, a high carb content causes disruption in the cycle of GABA production, which then causes impaired function, brain fog and low energy levels.
2.The Production of Ketones
Ketones are the second factor of improved brain health while following the keto diet. During ketosis, our body converts fats into ketones to fuel the cells. Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is one of the primary ketones that your body produces in ketosis. BHB is an efficient source of energy for the brain, which provides more power per unit consumed than glucose.
As the brain has more energy than before, neurons may be able to ward off disease stressors keeping the brain healthy and happy. Research suggests that increased energy may keep age-related brain diseases, such as cognitive function and memory loss at bay.
3.Helps fight the inflammation & oxidative stress
Inflammation is the body's response to injury. Generally, during inflammation, the area becomes warm, red and swelled up. On the other hand, oxidative stress is an indication of free radicals inside the cells. Free radicals can react with literally anything they encounter, thereby damaging your hereditary material, the building blocks of the body (proteins) and also contribute to the ageing. The keto diet provides your cells ample amount of antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation that can trigger the impairment of your brain cells. This impairment can cause anxiety, anger issues and depression in severe cases.
The keto diet may not have a direct impact on your brain health. Still, it has many indirect effects that improve mental and emotional health. Sugar is the principal enemy here. Controlling it can bring amazing results to your body. Before you begin the keto diet, do consult with your doctor, especially if you have diabetes, hypertension, are expecting, or breastfeeding a child.
Obesity. 2012. The Effects of a Low‐Carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet and a Low‐Fat Diet on Mood, Hunger, and Other Self‐Reported Symptoms
Epilepsy Foundation. 2017. Ketogenic Diet
NCBI. 2019. Ketosis and bipolar disorder: controlled analytic study of online reports
Being Patient. (n.d). Which Is a Better' Fuel for the Brain': Ketones or Sugar?