What are ketones? Scientists find ‘food group’ for better cognition and better physical shape



Staple food groups, like whole grains, fruits, and dairy products, have been a staple of the modern diet for centuries, but could we add another soon? A team of researchers from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has revealed the physical and mental benefits of ketones, a naturally occurring chemical that the body produces when facing times of starvation or food shortage. Their findings could lead to the advent of a new group of foods to boost endurance and memory.

The body typically uses glucose for energy, but when there isn’t enough of it, ketones kick in. Knowing this, the researchers fed rats a mixture of whole ketone ester supplements. by reducing their daily calorie intake by 30%, while a second group of rats were fed only a diet of carbohydrates and fats. After five days on the new diet, the rats ran 32% farther on the treadmill and 38% faster and had a healthier, stronger heart rate than the rats that weren’t fed ketones. When placed in a maze to test the rats’ memory, the researchers found that rats fed the ketone diet were able to complete the maze faster and more accurately than rats that did not take ketone supplements.

Dieting without carbs can help induce ketones to improve mental and physical functions. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, public domain

“The dramatic improvements in physical performance and cognitive function will no doubt be of interest to athletes and professional sports teams around the world,” said study co-author Andrew J. Murray, researcher in the Department of Physiology, development and neuroscience from the University of Cambridge. in a report.

Foods high in fat help initiate ketone production, along with a moderate serving of protein. However, not all fats were created equal, which is why choosing your ketone-inducing foods strategically is critical to getting the most out of your carb sacrifice. Nuts, avocados, eggs, cheeses, lean meats, fish, and poultry are all great sources to choose from.

Previous research has shown that the ketogenic diet can be a beneficial weight loss approach for overweight or obese people. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is why the key to a ketogenic diet is to drastically cut back on carbs in order to trigger ketone production. In the long run, obese patients experience significant weight loss after 16-24 weeks of carb restriction, but experts warn dieters to eventually revert to carbs. The newly discovered cognitive and physical benefits of ketogenic diets are a bonus.

“This can be a new horizon on the energy balance in certain nutritional or physiological situations,” Murray said. “Further research into the potential benefits of the ketone ester for human health is vital and is only just beginning.”

The ketogenic diet has also been shown to help calm the brain in children at risk for seizures. . Read here.

Source: Murray AJ, Clarke K and Knight NS, et al. New ketone diet improves physical and cognitive performance FASEB. 2016.


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