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Your Brain on Ketones

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  Published on October 22nd, 2023
  Reading time: 3 minutes
  Last modified October 22nd, 2023
Ketones and your brain

Brain on Ketones – Key Takeaways:

  • Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis (NMDRE) (is an autoimmune disease that attacks NMDA receptors, which are the primary receptors for glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the body.
  • Dysregulation of glutamate is associated with psychological and neurological disorders.
  • A ketogenic diet has been used to treat the disorders associated with NMDARE.
  • Nutrition plays a direct role on overall health and the treatment/management of disease.

Brain on Fire is the 2016 biographical drama (based on the 2012 book) that follows Susannah Cahalan’s mysterious neurological disease. This movie is credited with shedding light on lesser-known medical conditions and how legitimate neurological disorders manifest psychological and behavioral symptoms. Spoiler alert! Susannah was suffering from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. [1] This is a rare autoimmune disease that causes the body to send antibodies to attack N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. NMDA is the receptor for glutamate, which is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the human body. Glutamate is vital for cognitive functioning, learning, and memory. Furthermore, dysregulation is associated with psychological and neurological disorders such as drug addiction, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, drug addiction, and more. [2]

Little did Susannah know, the ketogenic diet has been used as an adjunct for her disease and has even been emphasized as a first-line treatment. In 2017, a six-year-old in Quebec began the ketogenic diet to treat her anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Within four weeks, her seizures were reduced, her behavior improved, and eye contact became visible. [3] Several other cases of a ketogenic diet for NMDARE have been reported including case studies in 2015 on a 21-year-old woman, [4] as well as a 7-year-old in 2014. [5]

The mechanism behind the neurological benefits of the ketogenic diet for NMDARE is the same behind its usage for epilepsy and seizures. The ketogenic diet alters the body’s metabolism to run on ketone bodies instead of glucose. Ketone bodies provide many neuroprotective benefits because they are more fuel-efficient, cross the blood–brain barrier more efficiently, and protect against oxidative damage. Its anti-epileptic actions are widely credited to the ketogenic diet’s ability to lower glutamate production. As stated, glutamate is the main excitatory neuron, which means it is directly linked to seizures as well as anti-NMDA encephalitis. [6]

The main takeaway here is the key role that nutrition plays in overall health, and how your brain on ketones is going to be a great thing. Many people look at the ketogenic diet as a fad or just another diet, but it can be and is so much more. As more research is being conducted on nutrition, we are beginning to see just how many diseases are affected by our food consumption. As keto’s popularity grows, more and more papers are being published on its use for the treatment/management of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety, and other maladies. As a society, we need to alter our perspective on food and nutrition. Perhaps the key to eradicating these diseases has been under our noses the entire time, and changing the way we look at our diet may be our answer.

At ketogenic.com, we are committed to supporting, inspiring, and educating people on the benefits of living a ketogenic lifestyle. We do this by bringing together the top researchers, practitioners, and thought-leaders who provide resources, experience, and awareness associated around the Ketogenic diet. Utilizing the latest cutting-edge research along with practical experience, the team at ketogenic.com aims to foster awareness, understanding, and connectedness in helping others optimize their life on a ketogenic diet.



Cahalan, S. (2013). Brain on fire: my month of madness. Simon and Schuster.


Barry, H., Byrne, S., Barrett, E., Murphy, K. C., & Cotter, D. R. (2015). Anti-N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor encephalitis: review of clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment. BJPsych bulletin, 39(1), 19-23.


Loewen, C. (2017, November 12). How a high-fat diet helped curb Laval toddler’s daily seizures | CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/rare-neurological-disease-treated-high-fat-diet-1.4398999


Amer, S., Shah, P., & Kommineni, V. (2015). Refractory status epilepticus from NMDA receptor encephalitis successfully treated with an adjunctive ketogenic diet. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, 18(2), 256.


Reji, R., Alexander, S., & Vijayan, M. (2017). A CASE SERIES ON ANTI NMDAR ENCEPHALITIS. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 9(4), 220-222.


Hartman, A. L., Gasior, M., Vining, E. P., & Rogawski, M. A. (2007). The neuropharmacology of the ketogenic diet. Pediatric neurology, 36(5), 281-292.

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