How Does the Keto Diet Affect Brain Function?
The brain relies on glucose, a form of sugar, as its primary source of energy. When carbohydrate intake is drastically reduced, the body enters a state of ketosis and begins to produce ketones, which can be used as an alternative energy source for the brain. This shift in energy source may improve brain function, particularly in areas related to memory and learning.
Additionally, the keto diet may increase levels of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that promotes the growth and survival of brain cells. Studies have found that increased BDNF levels are associated with improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Keto Diet and Mood
The keto diet may also have positive effects on mood. Low-carb diets have been found to improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. The diet may also help regulate mood-related hormones, such as serotonin, which can play a role in mood regulation and the onset of depression.
Some of the ways the ketogenic diet may impact mood are:
- Regulating Mood-related Hormones: The ketogenic diet may help regulate the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood regulation and the onset of depression. Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in high-protein foods such as meat and dairy products and is also a byproduct of the metabolism of fat. When carbohydrate intake is low, the body relies on fat as a source of energy, and this may lead to an increase in the production of serotonin.
- Improving Insulin Sensitivity: The ketogenic diet may improve insulin sensitivity which is associated with a decrease in inflammation, a process that has been linked to depression. Also, the ketogenic diet can help lower glucose levels and improve the regulation of glucose which can help in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Increasing Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF): The ketogenic diet may increase levels of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that promotes the growth and survival of brain cells. Studies have found that increased BDNF levels are associated with improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Also, BDNF is known to promote neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to change and adapt, this can help in regulating mood and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
It is worth mentioning that the keto diet may not be the best fit for everyone, particularly those with a history of disordered eating or an eating disorder, and it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new diet.
While the keto diet is primarily known for its potential weight loss benefits, emerging research suggests that it may also improve brain function and positively impact mood. More research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind these effects, but the current findings are promising. If you are considering the keto diet, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if it is the right fit for you.