Metabolism tests while exercising demonstrate how your body burns fat and carbohydrates during exercise.
While this profile is quite typical for most people the precise points at which these events occur during exercise varies greatly from person to person. Remember when your high school biology teacher said that the brain absolutely NEEDS glucose to function?
Originally devised as a therapy for drug-resistant epilepsy in children, the ketogenic diet (keto) has been gaining popularity lately. Simple speaking, strict carbohydrate restriction depletes liver glycogen and forces the body to turn to other macronutrients for energy.
There’s a reason neuroscientists and neurologists still haven’t figured out why keto is so effective in treating epilepsy. Ketone metabolism generate pH-lowering metabolites, hence a change in pH was proposed early on as a way keto influences brain function. Mitochondrial respiration, while generating ATP, also produces many reactive oxygen species (ROS). Poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in the keto diet, such as DHA and EPA have garnered a lot of attention.
Direct injection of ACA and acetone into animal models of epilepsy prevented seizures, hinting that ketone bodies may directly suppress seizure activity. Keto seems to suppress the expression of pro-cell death proteins such as caspase-3 and clusterin (both of which mediates cell death in Huntington’s disease, among others), which correlates with enhanced recovery from seizure episode or stroke in patients. The ketogenic diet (along with other low-carb diets) is gaining popularity as a weight-loss measure. Whether keto promotes cognitive improvement and neuroprotection in the general public remains to be seen. Edited Sep 2,2013: For those interested in exploring more, here is an accessible journal review that looks at potential therapeutic uses of nutritional ketosis in many other diseases. As for your question, I’ll point you to this blog post by Mark Sisson, who explains it quite thorough.
I would like to use this for an assignment for school, what is the name of the author and date published? If you mean the sources that I read to put the post together, they’re listed at the bottom of the post. I do largely agree that the Biology teacher nonsense that says your brain absolutely needs glucose to function is not accurate, but in my own experience in ketosis, I will say that glucose is a superior fuel for the brain. The pancreas has many islets that contain insulin-producing beta cells and glucagon-producing alpha cells.
Since diabetes is a disease that affects your body's ability to use glucose, let's start by looking at what glucose is and how your body controls it.
When you eat food, glucose gets absorbed from your intestines and distributed by the bloodstream to all of the cells in your body. To maintain a constant blood-glucose level, your body relies on two hormones produced in the pancreas that have opposite actions: insulin and glucagon. Insulin is made and secreted by the beta cells of the pancreatic islets, small islands of endocrine cells in the pancreas. As such, insulin stores nutrients right after a meal by reducing the concentrations of glucose, fatty acids and amino acids in the bloodstream. The image on the right shows total calories (fat and carbohydrates) burned increasing dramatically as exercise intensity increases. However, the number of calories of carbohydrate increases drastically at higher exercise intensities. During easier exercise most calories of fuel are provided by fat, however as intensity increases carbohydrate takes over. For example one person’s peak fat burning zone may be at a heart rate intensity of 100 – 120 beats per minute, whereas another person’s peak fat burning zone may be at 130 – 140 beats per minute.
It’s a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate diet (LCHF) designed to force the body to go into a state called metabolic ketosis.
And why aren’t pharmaceutical companies racing to package keto into a convenient treat-all 3-a-day pill? Proteins are metabolically costly to utilize (not to mention dangerous – heart is also a muscle), and is often used as a last resort. Holistically, the body is now running in a different metabolic state with changes in hormone levels (to say the least) which influences the nervous system.
However there’s no evidence that keto significantly lowers brain pH, although mild decreases in pH may be possible in local microdomains. In fact, BHB may provide a more efficient source of energy for brain per unit oxygen than glucose.
An acute increase in ROS is associated with stroke damage, while accumulation of ROS is one of the major hallmarks of aging and age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Some evidence links them to decreasing neuronal excitability in hippocampus, which may contribute to decreasing seizure generation.

At the moment it’s impossible to tease apart which mechanisms are the driving forces behind keto’s powers, and which ones are secondary manifestations. As increased ROS accumulation and mitochondrial dysfunction are common threads in age-related neurodegenerative diseases, it is conceivable that keto could be beneficial with its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory actions. Some go on the keto diet because they experience “fewer sugar crashes, enhanced energy levels, mental clarity and decreased hunger”.
A small study involving 21 obese women showed impaired higher cognitive function after 28-days on the keto diet.
Children following ketogenic diets have higher rates of dehydration, constipation, and kidney stones. While waiting for science to catch up though, I’m going for that bacon, spinach & cheese omelet.
Note I am not promoting using keto as a sole treatment option – if there are efficient pharmaceuticals available please do not forgo them in favour of ketosis. Those will direct you to individual studies that focused on different aspects of neuroprotection by the ketogenic diet. I am a writer and when I was in ketosis (due to medical issues at one point I was restricted completely from all sugars, for a time) I found it hard to do my job; I could still read, write, and function at a passable level but I found myself getting stuck on vocabulary, metaphors, and taking longer to think or recall things, generally. I am leery of the absolutely no carb diets, as a result, but find the low carb ones to likely be good. I function on ketones 100% of the time, 10 times more effectively than I did while consuming foods that converted to glucose. I attended a top 10 university, and have always been intent on being at my highest caliber, in all regards. I’ve also been on a ketogenic diet for the last 3 months, and just got off of it a little over a week ago.
The issue, from an evolutionary perspective, though, is that today’s sources of glucose are extreme, and the dopamine reward that we were wired for in the early days, when glucose containing foods were limited, are now out of control.
I hadn’t considered the dopamine effect, but I remember feeling that same dulling of drive, ambition, excitement, and interest. Figure out the right combination of salts and vegetation to make up for his low glucose levels or just eat berries? When I was restricted from carbs and sugars by my doctor for a time, it essentially meant that the only food I could eat was meat and vegetables.
Nevertheless imagine if you added some great graphics or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your body tries to keep a constant supply of glucose for your cells by maintaining a constant glucose concentration in your blood -- otherwise, your cells would have more than enough glucose right after a meal and starve in between meals and overnight. Under severe carbohydrate restriction, the brain can adapt and start burning ketones as fuel. With the advent of books like “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why we get fat”, LCHF diets are increasingly touted as the magic bullet to weight loss.
By providing adequate amounts of fat, the liver uses dietary and body fat as fuel and produces ketones. Locally, the brain is running on 3 types of semi interchangeable ketone bodies, the effects of which often can’t be teased apart. A microarray study showed that keto induced a coordinated upregulation of genes encoding energy metabolism and mitochondrial enzymes, increasing the number of mitochondria in the hippocampus, a brain area associated with learning and memory. Keto can induce upregulation of mitochondrial uncoupling proteins (UCPs) in rat, which correlates with decreased ROS generation and increased resistance towards chemically induced seizure. PUFAs can also directly act on receptors called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), the latter of which translocates to the nucleus and shuts down expression of pro-inflammatory factors.
On the contrary, another study involving 83 obese patients showed improved blood lipid profile after being on a 24-week ketogenic diet without significant side effects. A caveat of most of these studies is the lack of an adequate control group, making results hard to interpret. Other reported adverse effects include hyperlipidemia, impaired neutrophil function, optic neuropathy, osteoporosis, and protein de?ciency. The reason, guaranteed, that you couldn’t focus on ketogenic protocols is micronutrient depletion. I’ve put a lot of time and focus on my lifestyle, nutrition, supplementation and workout regimes, ever since I was 12. Common words and names of familiar faces would escape me more regularly than they’d come. I don’t wonder if these different diets work for different people for different reasons.
Consider your response to me, right here: in order to make up for the mental fog that came with your ketogenic diet you had to formulate a complicated strategy that involved worrying about micrornutrients and likely had to consume (and still have to consume) supplements to make up for the sodium deficiencies and clear the mental fog. Modern convenience is what makes this diet possible: ironically, also what makes it necessary, for many.
The cells take in glucose from the blood and break it down for energy (some cells, like brain cells and red blood cells, rely solely on glucose for fuel). So, when you have an oversupply of glucose, your body stores the excess in the liver and muscles by making glycogen, long chains of glucose.

Insulin is required by almost all of the body's cells, but its major targets are liver cells, fat cells and muscle cells.
While there is considerable interest in the medical community in using the ketogenic diet to manage metabolic syndrome or prevent cardiovascular disease, more attention has focused on its role in drug-resistant seizure management and (potentially) neuroprotective effects in brain damage. Hence it’s hard to say whether specific molecular and cellular alterations observed clinically or experimentally in animal models are a direct effect of ketosis, or simply a secondary phenomenon. Discarded a while back, this hypothesis recently resurfaced as the mechanism behind keto’s positive effect on Type II bipolar disorder management, which relies on blood acidification. This increased energy capacity has been shown to enable hippocampal neurons to better withstand low glucose exposure, which happens in stroke. Keto also increases the body’s own antioxidant defense system, namely glutathione levels in the hippocampus and protects mitochondrial DNA from ROS damage. As inflammation increasingly recognized as a contributor to seizures, Alzheimer’s and metabolic syndrome, this mechanism may be a crucial one in keto’s favorable effects.
However, direct application of the two ketones had no effect on (1) excitatory responses in hippocampal neurons after stimulation (2) spontaneous epilepsy-like activity in a brain slice model of epilepsy (3) whole-cell currents evoked by glutamate, kainate, and GABA in cultured hippocampal neurons. It may improve cognition in patients with neurodegeneration or enhance mood stability in patients with Type II bipolar disorder. Based on the above studies, keto is touted as a safe, effective tool for weight loss, with the added bonus of improved cognition. However, ketogenic diet for the management of seizure is different than that for weight-loss. My motivation sucked – although I could focus once I got into the zone, it took a very long time and great effort to get there in the first place. You do tend to read stories of people who survive on diets that would kill most other people so it stands to reason.
I ended up having to set my eating on a schedule, after awhile, because eating had become more a chore and I was actually consuming too few calories, barely eating a meal a day.
In the last decade, keto has been shown to improve memory in patients at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, stabilize mood in type II bipolar disorder, reduce symptoms in Parkinson’s disease and even ameliorate some behavioral and social deficits in autism. All three can be delivered into the brain and metabolically converted into ATP in both neurons and glia.
Nevertheless, several hypotheses have been put forward to explain keto’s neuroprotective effects. Better bioenergetics is proposed to limit seizure activity by stabilizing neuron resting membrane potential (so they’re not as excitable) or activate KATP channels through adenosine release. A few studies in epileptic children and healthy volunteers demonstrate that keto exterts a biphasic effect on cognition, with initial lethargy and subsequent heightened vitality, physical functioning, and alertness. The former generally requires 80-90% fat calories (although this has decreased slightly in the Modified Atkins Diet) while the latter proposes ~60% fat calories with sufficient protein for muscle maintenance. I have also been in very good physical condition for 15+ years, never having more than 8% body fat, nor being incapable of running a sub-6 min mile or bench press nearly 2x my body weight.
Rather than only consuming veggies, nuts and avocado for my carbs, I reintroduced blueberries.
My aunt and uncle are on that strict paleo diet that sounds similar to what you are doing with this ketogenic diet and if it works for you and you can keep at it, permanently, you should make it a lifestyle. I do sometimes wonder (jokingly) if the sheer boredom of these diets is what makes them good at cutting calories down for their users as well (if I was restricted to gruel, essentially, I would eat enough to sustain me and never be driven to overeat like I might be with junk food, for example). The three are interrelated: BHB and ACA can convert into each other, while ACA can turn into acetone. There are no studies directly addressing if energy efficiency is the reason for cognitive improvement in neurodegenerative diseases under keto, or if it contributes to enhanced cognitive performance in healthy individuals. I suspected reduced dopamine (reduced drive, excitement and passion), and possibly acetylcholine (poor memory).
As for your and my differences, genetics, epigenetics and possibly even muscle mass, may be the difference between your lower glucose needs than mine.
I have often thought that part of what makes it such a good fit for him are his food allergies – he has a ton of them, from lactose intolerance to getting diarrhea when consuming certain kinds of chocolate and nuts. Or, perhaps in time, we’ll see that too much time in ketosis, rather than cycling, leads to thyroid issues, blood-glucose insensitivities, etc. Paleo diet, in the strict sense, seems to cut most allergenic foods out (and is the closest thing to the ketogenic diet I can think of for an example). Although most of these studies were unblinded (hence placebo can’t be ruled out), the effect is still amazing. Well, I realized it was because I was getting substantially less work done at work each day.

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