Could a Low Carb Diet Prevent Or Reverse Age-Related Decline In The Brain? Possibly.

Professor Lilianne R. Mujica-Parodi, PhD, worked on a paper that suggests it could be possible.

What's Important: Neurobiological changes in the brain associated with aging can be seen as early as late 40’s, which tells us that degradation can happen much quicker than once originally thought.

Why Does It Matter?: Various epidemiological studies have shown that insulin-resistance accelerates the rate at which cognitive function declines in humans, especially as they age.

And the more insulin-resistant one becomes, the further the decline in cognition.

This has also been noticed in Type 2 diabetic patients.

  • In this study, they wanted to learn whether or not dietary intervention would have an impact on how the brain performed and if the decline was reversible. 
  • This particular paper found that the fuel source available in the brain would impact rates of decline, or reversal of poor cognition.

The Details: In people with insulin resistance, they experience hypometabolism (decreased metabolic rate), and the brain is not able to use glucose as easily as before the insulin resistance.

In brain imaging studies, they found breakdown in communication between brain regions in those with insulin resistance.

So, as people age and they become more insulin resistant, they’re less able to use glucose effectively.

  • The paper states this can cause the neurons to starve, making brain networks destabilize. This is how they define the decline referenced in the paper.

More Details: In this study, they looked at almost 1,000 people aged 18 to 88 and to conduct this experiment, they made ‘brain network stability’ as a biomarker for aging.

In general, aging populations will experience a disruption in network stability over time.

They wanted to determine if a standard diet consisting of mostly glucose as fuel would yield different results from a low-carb diet consisting of mostly ketones for fuel.

A standard diet would be high in carbs, but a low-carb diet would be mostly protein, leafy greens and a fat source with no grains, sugar, or starch.

To further isolate the fuel sources, they made two drinks:

  • one containing glucose
  • one containing ketones

They would then measure glucose and ketones peaking in the brain at 30 minutes post consumption.

Of these fuels, glucose was shown to be shorter acting, while ketones peaked for upwards of 90 minutes after consumption.

Noteworthy: The study determined that for those affected with, and even in some without insulin resistance, providing ketones for fuel in the brain would increase network stability in brain regions. 

Keep in mind, there needs to be more studies as it’s hard to isolate these fuels and we must consider other factors that could enhance cognition via diet for the aging population.

But those with insulin resistance and/or who are hypometabolic may benefit.



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