The Wonders of Ketones

The Intermittent Fasting Series – Ketones

The Metabolic Shift

In the absence of glucose, the liver will begin a metabolic shift into Ketosis, releasing a flood of ketone bodies into the bloodstream. Ketones can serve as an excellent source of glucose-alternative fuel for our heart, brain, and skeletal muscles, providing more efficient energy per unit of oxygen used by cells in biochemical processes than glucose.

Food for Your Brain

As fat turns to fuel in the Ketonic process, adipose cells break down fat cells into fatty acids and glycerol, which are then released into the bloodstream. Fatty acids and glycerol can be used as fuel by many cell types throughout the body, but for the brain, their energy conversion rate is too slow for what is required to function. 

When sugars and fats are rendered inadequate sources of energy during times of intermittent fasting, the brain will turn to its best option for alternative fuel: ketones – the small, fat-derived molecules that serve as a circulating energy source for tissues during fasting and prolonged periods of exercise. 

Some of the fatty acids in the bloodstream will travel to the liver and are then converted into ketones called acetoacetate. Acetoacetate is then converted into two ketone bodies – beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and acetone. Acetone is mostly excreted as waste, while BHB is released into the bloodstream to work its magic.

Ketones are so much more than just alternative sources of fuel for the brain! Emerging studies show that ketones are crucial in performing biological activities. For our brains especially, ketones are a rejuvenating elixir.

Evidence from human and animal studies during the past 50 years has supported this theory and established that ketones can influence the neuronal circuits at several levels, enhancing their functionality and increasing their resistance to stressful environments.

Mitochondria, Cancer, and Antioxidants


Ketones can induce the formation of new mitochondria, and might even increase the metabolic efficiency and stress tolerance of the neurons in the brain.

As ketones don’t support the growth of glucose-dependent cancer cells, a body fueled by ketones will naturally eliminate any dangerous cancer cell growth.

Metabolism of ketones releases less free radicals than glucose, and increases the levels of antioxidants in cells to protect against oxidative stress, thereby protecting against inflammation, damage, and cell death.

BDNF and Neurogenesis

Ketones have the ability to epigenetically upregulate the expression of genes that lower inflammation and protect our cells and mitochondria from stress. The most important function among them is the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

BDNF – a protein induced by BHB – is a particularly nutritive molecule for the brain that grows new neurons and new synapses, while protecting our existing neurons and synapses. The process of growing new neurons from neural stem cells is called neurogenesis, while the ability of the brain to alter the connections between neurons is called synaptic plasticity. BDNF is a regulator of both of these processes and is therefore capable of rejuvenating and upgrading brain health, cognition, and memory.

The Essentials of Ketosis: Intermittent Fasting, Exercise, and Diet


Essential supplementation to Intermittent Fasting as a trigger for the Ketonic state is exercise (including yoga) and diet. 

Exercise

Exercise is an accelerator to the ketonic state. Normally, the carbs we eat are broken down into glucose. Whatever glucose that isn’t needed immediately after eating is stored as glycogen. Every time we eat, glycogen stores are renewed and glucose remains the main source of energy for our body. As you exercise, you are depleting your body’s glycogen stores, and when you exercise in a ketonic state, your body relies on ketones for energy instead of glycogen. 

Diet

It is important to have a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA omega-3 at a minimum of 2-5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day when fasting. This will enhance all neurological benefits as you rebuild your brain!

Benefits of ketones to keep in mind while intermittent fasting

  • Ketones can induce the formation of new mitochondria
  • BDNF is a particularly nutritive molecule for the brain that grows new neurons and new synapses while protecting our existing ones.
  • The process of growing new neurons from neural stem cells is called neurogenesis, while the ability of the brain to alter the connections between neurons is called synaptic or neuroplasticity.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of the Intermittent Fasting Series – Rebuilding the Hippocampus!

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Article by Louie

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