Recent evidence suggests that age-related brain deterioration might be reversed with a low-carb diet. The low-carb diet is often cited now for keeping people living longer but it appears to even reverse age-related damage to the brain according to some recent research.
Our brains usually start getting damaged in our 40s and onwards.
The scientists making this assertion examined the brains of people using scanning techniques which are non-invasive.
The lead researcher of the paper Lilianne R Mujica-Parodi who is a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook University in New York stated:-
“Neurobiological changes associated with ageing can be seen at a much younger age than would be expected, in the late 40s,”
“However, the study also suggests that this process may be prevented or reversed based on dietary changes that involve minimising the consumption of simple carbohydrates.”
The researchers looked at a thousand individuals between the ages of 18 and 88. They found that neural pathways became damaged depending on how the brain was deriving its energy. Glucose is a standard source of energy and regarded as the main source. It decreased the stability of the networks in the brain.
Ketones on the other hand are produced by the liver during periods of carbohydrate restrictive diets and actually make these networks more stable.
Mujica-Parodi also stated:-
“What we found with these experiments involves both bad and good news. The bad news is that we see the first signs of brain ageing much earlier than was previously thought. However, the good news is that we may be able to prevent or reverse these effects with diet … by exchanging glucose for ketones as fuel for neurons.”
“We think that, as people get older, their brains start to lose the ability to metabolise glucose efficiently, causing neurons to slowly starve, and brain networks to destabilise.”
“So we tested whether giving the brain a more efficient fuel source, in the form of ketones, either by following a low-carb diet or drinking ketone supplements, could provide the brain with greater energy. Even in younger individuals, this added energy further stabilised brain networks.”
The study is published in PNAS.
Low-carb diets are mainly ketogenic diets which are high in fats and proteins but low in carbohydrates. They are touted by many as a quick way to burn fat not carbohydrate. Some of the reported additional benefits include treating neurological conditions, especially some types of epilepsy in children, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
We know that a ketogenic diet is a short-term measure and one that does carry some risks in the long-term. Clearly more research is needed to verify and provide further support to the idea but it does offer some hope to those who want to not only lose weight but also minimise neurological degeneration. Other diets for the longer term include the Mediterranean diet which is better for your heart and general health. If you eat a lot of fat as advocated in the ketogenic diets, then you possible run the risk of damaging the heart instead, it really is only for the short-term.
The evidence suggest that it may be worth considering the carbohydrate content of our diets as a way to prevent age-related brain deterioration.