A new international study by Tel Aviv University has found that a ketogenic diet may reduce the effects of brain damage after a traumatic injury.
The study indicates that the diet improves spatial memory and visual memory, reduces indicators of encephalitis, reduces neuronal death and slows the rate of cell aging.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and long-term disability in the developed world. It is estimated that every year more than 10 million people worldwide suffer from traumatic brain injury due to head injuries caused by a hard object, blow, explosion, road accidents, sports injuries, etc.
These traumas can lead to physical, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional damage, and are a risk factor for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
At this point, despite the frequent occurrence of brain injuries, there is no effective treatment that can help those suffering from this injury.
Meirav Har-Even Kerzhner, a dietitian and brain researcher at TAU, explains that a ketogenic diet that includes changes in consumption of common foods is high in fat and aims to mimic a fasting state.
As part of the diet, the intake of foods containing carbohydrates (such as bread, sugar, cereals, legumes, snacks, pastries and even fruits) is greatly restricted, and on account of this restriction, high-fat products such as meat, fish, eggs, avocado, butter, etc. – are restricted to be eaten.
This is a diet that can be continued for long periods of time. The diet increases the production of ketone bodies in the liver, which are used to generate energy. These ketone bodies are transported through the bloodstream to the brain to provide optimal nourishment.
The diet has been used as a treatment in Israel and around the world for nearly 100 years among children with epilepsy, while in recent years, the ketogenic diet has become popular among those who want to lose weight.
It is important to note that due to significant dietary restrictions, it is essential to consult a physician or registered dietitian.
In the study conducted on model animals, researchers determined that a ketogenic diet significantly improves a patient’s brain function. For this purpose, the researchers used advanced methods that included, among others, cognitive behavioral tests, biochemical tests, and immunohistochemical staining of cells (a technique in biology to detect and place proteins in a cross-section of tissue). The mechanism by which the ketogenic diet benefits brain damage outcomes has not been fully revealed, but studies have shown that it has an antioxidant effect as well as on mitochondria (essential organelles in the cell whose primary function is energy production and respiration), and reduces the production of radicals. Free and increases ATP (a key molecule in cellular biochemical channels).
Professor Chaim (Chage) of TAU, who led the study, said: “The results were clear and showed that the ketogenic diet improves spatial memory and visual memory, reduces indicators of inflammation in the brain, plus it also slows down the rate of cell aging. These findings may open the door for further research that will inspire hope for those with TBI, and their family members.”