Priyanshi Patel ‘22
A study on neuroimaging led by Stony Brook professor Lilianne R. Mujica-Parodi reveals that neurobiological changes that are associated with aging can also be seen at a much younger age than expected. The study suggests that the effects of the changes can be prevented or reversed based on changes in diet that involve minimizing the consumption of carbohydrates. The research team at Stony Brook University showed that in adults younger than age 50, dietary ketosis increased brain activity and stabilized functional networks whether it was after one week of dietary change or just 30 minutes after.
Neuroimaging of the brain showed that there is a breakdown of communication between different regions of the brain. It is generally thought that brains start to lose the ability to metabolize glucose efficiently as people get older. This causes neurons to starve and networks to destabilize. In order to test this, the researchers gave the brain ketones (more fuel), followed by a low-carb diet or drinking ketone supplements. This provided energy to stabilize brain networks in younger individuals. To establish a biomarker of brain stability, two large-scale brain neuroimaging (fMRI) were used for approximately 1,000 individuals, ages 18 to 88. Destabilization of brain networks was associated with impaired cognition and was worsened by the effects of Type 2 diabetes. The researchers then held the age constant and scanned an additional 42 adults under the age of 50 to observe how glucose and ketones directly impact an individual’s brain. The various trials showed that the differences between diets could be attributed to the type of fuel provided to the brain.
A keto diet resulted in the smallest amount of brain instability, followed by a fasting diet, and a standard diet having the large amount of instability. The results of the experiment showed that dietary ketosis increased overall brain activity and stabilized functional networks because ketones provide more energy to cells than glucose. Ketones have shown to be beneficial for the heart, but this experiment provides the first evidence for equivalent effects in the brain.
- L.R. Mujica-Parodi, et al., Diet modulates brain network stability, a biomarker for brain aging, in young adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,1-8 (2020). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1913042117