Food as fuel is one my favorite phrases. There is so much power in such a short phrase, and now another study may provide clues of how food can also be brain fuel. Researchers set out to understand how diet effects brain aging, and found a combination of bad news & good news.
- Bad News: Our brains begin to age earlier than originally thought, as brain pathways begin to deteriorate by our late 40’s.
- Good News: This process of deterioration can be slowed, and even reversed, by dietary changes that involve (1) minimizing simple carbohydrates and (2) introducing ketones.
Simply put, by changing the fuel used for energy from glucose to ketones (sugars to fats), we might be able to slow down, and possibly reverse, brain pathway deterioration, or brain aging. When thinking about an organization and creating a culture of innovation, thought leadership and productivity, could encouraging the organization to pay more attention to dietary choices have a noticeable effect on the performance of the business? It certainly seems possible…
Enter the ketogenic diet, a dietary methodology that has been around for a long time, is growing in popularity today, but is still misunderstood by many. At its core, the ketogenic diet is based on the principle of creating a metabolic state where your body uses ketones (fats) as opposed to glucose for energy. This requires a very low carbohydrate consumption and high consumption of healthy fats. It also requires a medium consumption of high quality proteins and a high consumption of non-starchy vegetables, which are typically very robust in their nutritional profiles (vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, fiber) but low in carbohydrates and sugars. When your body moves to using ketones as fuel, it enters a state known as ketosis.
The ketogenic diet has been shown to offer numerous health benefits, including:
- Weight loss. When you shift to a ketogenic diet (that is, your body moves into ketosis), you see a rapid weight loss in the first few weeks. Keeping a preferred weight is also easier as your hunger and cravings are much more stable due to the satiating foods you’re eating, fewer overall feedings (which reduces insulin response) and better quality foods and nutrients consumed at each meal. When combined with intermittent fasting, the effect is enhanced.
- Heart Health. Higher levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) & lower levels of triglycerides are a recipe for a stronger heart. Remember, you’re eating quality fats like olive oil, salmon, grass fed beef, etc.
- Blood Sugar & Insulin Response. When eating ketogenic, your blood sugar levels reduce dramatically, which means your insulin levels also normalize. In fact, the effect is so powerful that this diet has been shown to reverse a condition known as insulin resistance and can even help reverse type 2 diabetes.
- Neurological. The ketogenic diet is not new. It has been used for over 100 years to treat epilepsy, and is also being studied on whether it can positively affect people who suffer from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and even bi-polar disorders.
- Mood Stability. Studies have shown kids eating a traditional diet of high sugar demonstrate a major improvement in mood & behavior stability when that sugar is removed and they shift to eating a more natural, balanced and more “keto-like” diet.
There are many myths surrounding the ketogenic diet, and I could go on for hours discussing them, but here’s a good snapshot, courtesy of the Vitamin Shoppe.
Bottom line. Whether the ketogenic diet is right for you is your choice, and I would strongly suggest you research it before you begin. But, simple choices like reducing the amount of sugar in your diet looks to be a smart choice for protecting brain power, which is a positive for individuals and organizations alike.
If you would like to learn more about the ketogenic diet, I recommend two online sources that are great for beginners and offer reference materials and suggested meal plans.