Ketosis has come to be known as a diet for weight loss, or preventing epilepsy, or for achieving the ideal form for body builders. But did you know that ketosis is also a way of living that promotes mental clarity and brain health?
As you probably know, the state of ketosis gives the body an alternate source of energy: instead of burning glucose for fuel, the liver converts fat into ketones, which are water-soluble fats that can be used in the place of glucose to power the brain, muscles, cardiovascular system, and energy production. Instead of relying on insulin to regulate glucose intake, which can be problematic for a number of reasons, ketosis removes dependence on insulin. Fat is arguably the perfect body fuel because it doesn’t cause insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or diabetes. It is body-protective, and it energizes the liver. The other incredible thing about fat metabolism is that there is no waste: fat gives the liver energy to convert the tiny amount of glucose needed from protein, and the rest becomes ketones. When glucose is the primary fuel source, too much is frequently eaten, and after energy production is complete, the “extra” glucose gets stored as fat. The fat accumulates because it isn’t being burned as a fuel source, but instead, is a byproduct of an inefficient metabolic system.
Ketosis promotes mental clarity for a number of reasons, but let’s consider three of the most important ones here:
It reduces excess glucose in the brain. Alzheimer’s has been referred to as “diabetes of the brain” and a ketosis diet reduces the damaging effect of excess glucose on the brain. While the brain does need a small amount of glucose to function, it certainly doesn’t need to drown in it. The modern American diet consists of primarily carbohydrates, and since carbs get converted to glucose, it can be argued that most Americans feast primarily on glucose. This can cause diabetes, but it can also contribute to neurological disorders and disease, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
It increases GABA. GABA, known as γ-aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that has a huge role in the body’s ability to manage stress. It promotes relaxation in the brain while at the same time improving alertness. When the brain is constantly under stress—situational, caffeine-induced, or from excess glucose—it actually doesn’t become more alert. It becomes singularly focused on addressing the cause of the stress. The fight or flight mechanism isn’t one that increases general memory function, and in fact, works against healthy cognition. This makes sense because when we are fleeing for our lives, we aren’t going to be worried about our mental capacity or critical thinking skills. Instead, we are going to worry about staying alive. GABA works to reduce the fight-or-flight instinct and instead to promote feelings of calm, peace, and security. Ketosis increases GABA in the brain by increasing glutamic acid decarboxylase, which then converts into GABA.
It increases energy production. Ketones appear to be more effective than glucose at providing more energy to the body. Specifically, it can increase the number of mitochondria in the body, which are each self-contained little energy factories within brain cells. Neurological diseases and other chronic conditions share several characteristics, but impaired glucose metabolism and low energy production are two of the most common. The fact that ketosis can work to reverse these two primary issues explains why it is such a health-supportive and therapeutic diet.
Ketosis is an important lifestyle for a number of other reasons not discussed here, but who couldn’t benefit from increasing their mental clarity and neurological health while at the same time reducing stress and overall toxic burden?