The ketogenetic diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet. On a keto diet you eat less than 20-25 net carbs per day to get your body in a state of ketosis. To calculate net carbs, you subtract fiber and sugar alcohols (e.g. xylitol) from the number of carbs in a particular food item. Keto originally started as a diet to prevent seizures and is now used to treat a variety of conditions, including PCOS, brain tumors, and Alzheimer’s disease.
After your body stops using carbs and glucose as its main fuel source, it will start using fat. When that happens, the liver begins producing ketones. Once your body starts using ketones as fuel, you have less oxidative stress in your body. Less oxidative stress in the body in turn helps reduce inflammation. Reduced inflammation is beneficial not only for brain health but for other chronic issues such as autoimmune conditions and joint pain. Lowering inflammation also has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
When you are in a state of ketosis, you start to see an increase in cognitive function because ketones increase mitochondrial enzymes and energy in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is involved in the formation of new memories and is associated with learning and emotions. The ketogenetic diet also helps increase GABA production in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter associated with anxiety, and low levels of GABA can lead to one feeling anxious or depressed. Because the keto diet increases GABA, people tend to report feeling less anxious or depressed. Ketosis also is a neuroprotective state, which is why some doctors will recommend the diet for patients who are at risk for developing various neurodegenerative disorders. The keto diet helps improve the brain-gut axis, and recent studies show improvement in neurodegenerative disorders, anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
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*Please consult your doctor before trying a keto diet.