Eating a ketogenic diet appears to be beneficial after traumatic brain injury, according to an international study led by Tel Aviv University.
Traumatic brain injury, which affects some 10 million people each year, can cause physical, cognitive, behavioral and emotional damage and is also a risk factor for diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
The study indicates that a keto diet improves spatial and visual memory, reduces brain inflammation, causes less neuronal death, and slows the rate of cellular aging in injured brains.
The study was led by Professor Chaim (Chagi) Pick, director of TAU’s Sylvan Adams Sports Institute and a member of its Sagol School of Neuroscience, and Ph.D. student Meirav Har-Even Kerzhner, dietitian and brain researcher . The results were published in Scientific Reports.
Har-Even Kerzhner explained that a ketogenic diet aims to mimic a fasting state. Carbohydrates such as bread, sugar, cereals, legumes, pastries, and even fruit are significantly limited, while high-fat foods such as meat, fish, eggs, avocado, and butter are encouraged.
The diet increases the production of ketone bodies, energy-generating molecules produced in the liver when it breaks down fat. The blood carries these ketone bodies to the brain.
This diet has been used for nearly 100 years to treat children with epilepsy and more recently has become popular for weight loss.
In the study, conducted on mice with brain damage, researchers found that a ketogenic diet significantly improved their brain function compared to a control group fed a standard diet.
The results were unequivocal, Pick said.
“These findings could open the door to further research that will give hope to people with traumatic brain injury and their family members.”
Researchers from New Jersey and Florida participated in the study.
This story first appeared on Israel 21C.