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Could a Ketogenic Diet Alter the Microbiome to Protect Brain Health?

Each of our guts is an ecosystem of microorganisms. We shape this ecosystem by eating certain foods and, in turn, this ecosystem affects how our bodies and brains function.

A paper published in Nature, recently added a piece to the biological puzzle. The data presented suggest that a ketogenic diet can alter gut bacteria in mice to protect against the development of neurological disease.

For this study, the researchers fed young healthy mice either a ketogenic diet or a control diet The mice on the ketogenic diet exhibited an increase in blood flow and oxygen to the brain, a decrease in the levels of the infamous aging protein “mTOR,” and an increase in the activity of a protein (P-glycoprotein) that helps clear waste from the brain, particularly waste associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease (Aβ). These results are consistent with the idea that a ketogenic diet might protect young healthy brains from developing cognitive decline.

The researcher found that these benefits might be mediated by changes in gut bacteria. When they examined the gut microbes of ketogenic mice, relative to control mice, they found that levels of the certain beneficial bacteria (Lactobacillus and Akkermansia) were doubled to tripled, whereas harmful gut bacteria (Desulfovibrio and Turicibacter) were almost eliminated.

Okay… interesting… but are these changes in gut bacteria related to the beneficial changes in brain metabolism? Well, maybe. It’s been hypothesized that many brain diseases begin in the gut. It also is well-documented that ketogenic diets improve the symptoms of conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and autism, in association with critical changes in gut bugs.

Returning to our ketogenic mice, the particular changes identified in their guts were compelling. The Lactobacillus and Akkermansia bacteria levels that increased in the ketogenic mice produce certain “short-chain fatty acids” thought to protect the blood-brain barrier, improve cerebral blood flow and, increase clearance of the toxins, like Aβ. These are precisely the changes that were observed in the ketogenic mice’s brains! Furthermore, Desulfovibrio and Turicibacter, which decreased in the ketogenic mice, are associated with risk factors for cognitive decline, such as chronic inflammation.

It’s an exciting idea: by choosing the right foods, we can shape our microbial ecosystems and, in so doing, may protect the health of our most precious organ – the brain!


No medical advice

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.



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