The body is an amazing holistic ecosystem and as a core part of that whole, the brain requires optimal nutrition throughout all stages of life. Many factors such as a lack of nutrients, age, illness, medication, stress, insufficient sleep, sedentary lifestyle and poor gut health can affect how our brain functions. As a consequence, today many people suffer brain fog, poor concentration, low mood or feeling anxious; and cognitive decline is on the increase.
The benefits of fasting around mental clarity are well reported and number of animal studies have suggested a neuroprotective capability. But that’s not the whole story. The brain is a very nutrient hungry organ and steals roughly 25% of the whole body’s energy requirements. It needs a constant supply of energy provided by the food we eat. Fats can be a good source of fuel for the brain as well as carbs but there is also an alternative fuel source. Think of the brain as much like a high performance F1 racing car which runs on premium high-octane fuel. This is where the body’s most efficient and naturally high octane fuel - ketones comes in – Ketones can be generated during the absence of glucose through extended intermittent or prolonged fasting (fasting mimicking diet FMD) or ketogenic diet. Ketones are generally made from medium chain triglycerides, known as MCT’s. The sales of MCT oil have been increasing in popularity, as well as ketone salts and pure synthetic ketones. Also popular is the use of bullet proof coffee where you add a teaspoon of coconut oil, or butter to increase ketone levels. Fats are made up of carbon molecules and MCT’s with the latter containing C6,C8,C10 and C12. C8 oil (caprylic acid triglyceride) However using pure C8 oil makes ketones fastest and it is readily available online.
Be mindful if you are new to the use of C8 oil, unlike butter or extra virgin coconut oil it doesn’t need to be digested, as it goes straight to the liver for immediate metabolic conversion to ketones. Some people may experience abdominal discomfort if taken in too larger concentration. Start small with one teaspoon.
Interestingly, some case studies with coconut oil have shown short-term beneficial effects in people with Alzheimer’s, with improving mental clarity. A another study gave 52 people with pre-dementia either two tablespoons (30g) of C8 oil or a placebo and measured changes in their cognitive function. Brain ketone metabolism increased by 230% indicating that their brain cells were switching to using ketones as fuel, and the more this was happening the more cognitive improvements occurred. The authors suggested than three tablespoons (45g) of C8 oil might be better.
In addition to ketones certain nutrients are particularly important for brain health including omega-3 fatty acids (the brain is 60% fat) and DHA in particular, which contributes to normal brain function. Other important nutrients include those which contribute to the normal functioning of the nervous system, psychological function, energy-yielding metabolism and the reduction of homocysteine – which includes the B-complex vitamins. In addition, adequate antioxidants are important, for example, vitamins A, C, E, zinc and selenium which are all included in the ProLon NR-3 Vitamin and mineral supplement used in the fasting mimicking diet (FMD).
Green tea: a randomised, placebo-controlled, single-blind study found matcha drinkers to experience slight benefits in speed of attention and episodic memory mood and cognitive performance
Cocoa flavanols: antioxidants in cocoa called flavanols have been found to improve visual and cognitive functions, and may also influence certain part of memory responsible for the recording of information about one’s environment and spatial orientation
Key nutrients: include key nutrients in your diet such as omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, magnesium and also vitamin B12. Some studies have found that omega 3 supplementation improves cognition and modifies brain activation in young adults