Professor Stephen Cunnane is presenting an online webinar on “ketones – a key brain fuel during ageing” for the charity Food for the Brain on 6th June at 6pm BST. This webinar will explain how the brain uses ketones for fuel, how to implement a keto diet and the state of the science for keto diets. The webinar will also cover supplements for reducing cognitive decline and their potential as a treatment option to help prevent or arrest dementia, as well as other neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy.
Professor Stephen Cunnane, who heads the Brain Research Team at Sherbrooke University in Quebec, Canada, is an expert in the new science of ‘ketotherapeutics’. His research is focused on how both ketogenic high fat diets – but also giving C8 oil or supplementing ketones themselves – can help prevent Alzheimer’s, slow down cognitive decline, improve mood and lessen anxiety.
Conventional advice to eat a low-fat diet for weight control may help reduce your calorie intake but could be bad for your brain and future risk of dementia.
New evidence shows that brain cells clog up if they are presented with too much energy from sugar (glucose or fructose) that is derived from carbs rather than from fats. Type 2 diabetes, a consequence of too much sugar, almost doubles the risk for dementia. However, very high fat ‘ketogenic’ diets, which are low in carbs and contain almost no sugar, substantially reduce that risk.
The brain can derive a lot of its energy needs from ketones which come from fats. The brain also depends on omega-3 fats for signalling systems which enable us to think. Increased intake of omega-3, either from diet or supplements, or having a higher omega-3 blood level, cuts the risk for dementia by a fifth (20%), according to a study of over 100,000 people just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The trouble with low fat diets and low fat foods in general is that they are inevitably higher in carbohydrates, especially sugar. Carbohydrates are rapidly digested down to glucose which is an important brain fuel in the right quantity. Eating too much refined “white” carbohydrate on a regular basis, however, messes up the glucose supply to the brain by promoting insulin resistance.
Brain cells, however, can run on an alternative fuel, ketones, which are made in the liver from fat. Brain cells prefer to run on ketones when they are available, as these give the brain an energy boost. By consuming a kind of fat called medium chain trigylcerides (MCTs), found in fatty foods such as oily fish and coconut oil, the body can make ketones and memory can improve.
“Our research shows that the areas of the brain that have trouble using glucose for energy are able to use ketones perfectly well, even in moderately advanced dementia. This may explain why many people later in life who are given a supplement of C8 oil or MCT oil have improvements on a battery of cognitive tests. They often feel it brings their brain power back to life” says Cunnane.
If you’d like to attend the webinar on 6th June, or watch a video recording, click here.