The ketogenic diet is often thought to only be for weight loss, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only can the keto diet help you attain fitness goals of muscle building and fat loss, but it’s also been shown to increase longevity and improve cognitive function. Recent studies believe that the keto diet can also be an effective form of substance abuse therapy.
An Introduction to The Ketogenic Diet
Under normal circumstances, the human body utilizes glucose from carbohydrates as fuel. When deprived of carbs, the body shifts to producing ketones from fat as a primary fuel source. There are three ketone bodies produced: beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), acetoacetate, and acetone. BHB is produced, by far, in the largest quantities. Due to the size and polarity of BHB, it readily travels in the bloodstream and is able to quickly cross the blood-brain-barrier. This coupled with the fact ketones produce more energy than glucose, makes them a superior fuel source for the brain, especially in individuals afflicted by certain disorders. Since ketones are able to travel across the blood-brain-barrier and provide more ATP to neurons, they have been researched as an alternative fuel source in cases of neurodegeneration, brain injury, and other neural disorders.
How Can Ketones Help Substance Abuse Disorder?
A state of ketosis or consumption of exogenous ketones may be used in the treatment of substance abuse disorder, due to its ability to substantially reduce symptoms of withdrawal, such as:
- Mood Swings
The suspected mechanism is very similar to the usage of a ketogenic diet for epilepsy. Ketosis heavily favors the conversion of glutamate (the primary excitatory neurotransmitter) to GABA (the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter). Research shows that GABA decreases rewarding effects in the areas of the brain associated with drug addiction (nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area). In fact, many structural analogs of GABA have been used for drug treatment in Europe and have extensive research backing its usage.
Can Ketosis Help with Alcoholism?
Several clinical trials are underway in the United States for a ketogenic diet as a treatment for alcoholism. Since alcohol intoxication causes severe decreases in neural glucose metabolism, ketones have been presented as an alternative fuel source to maintain normal brain functioning. Research has shown that chronic users of alcohol have altered brain metabolism that has an increased affinity for ketone usage. Ketogenesis or use of exogenous ketones have been shown to reduce withdrawal symptoms and improve cognition, sleep, and mood during alcohol detox treatment.
Where Can I Find More Information about Keto Substance Abuse Therapy?
Ketosis and Brain Handling of Glutamate, Glutamine and GABA
Addiction and the brain: the role of neurotransmitters in the cause and treatment of drug dependence
GABA(B) receptors in drug addiction.
Ketogenic Diet Suppresses Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome in Rats.
The Current Status of the Ketogenic Diet in Psychiatry
The ketogenic diet may have mood-stabilizing properties.
Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake
Change in food cravings, food preferences, and appetite during a low-carbohydrate and low-fat diet
Acute alcohol intoxication decreases glucose metabolism but increases acetate uptake in the human brain
Chelsea Malone works as a researcher in the field of health and performance supplementation. She contributes science-based articles and information to Ketogenic.com. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Central Florida and her Master of Science in Medical Sciences from the University of South Florida. Her specialties are in biochemistry, immunology, and pathophysiology. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, hiking, and reading.