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The ketogenic diet and traumatic brain injury

A ketogenic diet (high fat, low protein and carbohydrates) can make significant changes to the way the brain metabolizes energy. It is well known that the ketogenic diet can reduce seizure activity, and more recent research has suggested that it also increases neuroprotective effects in brain injury.

In one animal study, the administration of a ketogenic diet after traumatic brain injury showed a reduction in secondary brain injuries such as neuronal death and brain edema (swelling). Secondary brain injuries can often cause more damage than the primary injury, and much brain injury research has focused on the reduction of these secondary processes.

A research review of the relationship between the ketogenic diet, the protein adenosine, and brain activity illustrated the metabolic process in which ketosis may effectively treat brain disorders. Ketosis can increase ATP and adenosine, both of which are important elements of brain activity. This change in brain activity could not only increase neuroprotective factors and decrease seizure activity, but also improve sleep quality, alleviate pain, and reduce rates of diabetes.

Although we still need clinical research in humans to verify the benefits of a ketogenic diet for traumatic brain injury, there is potential for a wide-range of benefits from a relatively simple therapy.

Hu Z-G, Wang H-D, Qiao L, et al. The protective effects of the ketogenic diet on traumatic brain injury-induced cell death in juvenile rats. Brain Injury. (May 2009).

Masino SA, Kawamura Jr. M, Wasser CA, Pomeroy LT, & Ruskin DN. Adenosine, ketogenic diet and epilepsy: The emerging therapeutic relationship between metabolism and brain activity. Current Neuropharmacology. (September 2009).


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