A recent study from Stony Brook University found that brain changes associated with aging can be seen at a much younger age than would be expected, in the late 40s.
However, they also found that this process may be prevented or reversed based on dietary changes that minimize simple carbs.
The study is published in PNAS. The lead author of the study is Lilianne R. Mujica-Parodi, Ph.D.
To better understand how diet influences brain aging, the research team focused on the presymptomatic period during which prevention may be most effective.
They used large-scale life span neuroimaging datasets and found that functional communication between brain regions destabilizes with age, typically in the late 40’s, and that destabilization correlates with poorer cognition and accelerates with insulin resistance.
They then showed this biomarker for brain aging to be reliably modulated with consumption of different fuel sources: glucose decreases, and ketones increase, the stability of brain networks.
This effect was replicated across both changes to total diet as well as after drinking a fuel-specific calorie-matched supplement.
The team says what they found with these experiments involves both bad and good news.
The bad news is that the first signs of brain aging are much earlier than was previously thought.
However, the good news is that people may be able to prevent or reverse these effects with diet.
In the study, participants had spent one week on a standard (unrestricted) vs. low carb (for example meat or fish with salad, but no sugar, grains, rice, starchy vegetables) diet.
In a standard diet, the primary fuel metabolized is glucose, whereas, in a low-carb diet, the primary fuel metabolized is ketones.
The team found that the differences between the diets could be attributed to the type of fuel they provide to the brain.
Even in younger adults, under age 50, dietary ketosis (whether achieved after one week of dietary change or 30 minutes after drinking ketones) increased overall brain activity and stabilized functional networks.
This is thought to be due to the fact that ketones provide greater energy to cells than glucose, even when the fuels are calorically matched.
This benefit has previously been shown for the heart, but the current set of experiments provides the first evidence for equivalent effects in the brain.
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