Is it possible that a ketogenic diet could improve cognition and mental performance in the face of sleep deprivation? New research suggests it could. Dr. brett Sher is the medical director of dietdoctor.com. I love reading articles about new or different ways to use ketogenic diets and exogenous ketones. It’s possible that it could help people in specific areas of their lives.
I only have an abstract. Although I don’t have the entire study, it seems really intriguing, so I wanted it to be discussed. This study is from a New Zealand research group and it’s called “The effect of a ketogenic diet over a carbohydrate-based diet” and was published in the medical sciences forum.
It was a random crossover study in which military personnel had to choose between a ketogenic diet (which contained less than 25g of carbs per daily) or a carbohydrate-based meal plan. They followed that diet for 14 consecutive days and then had 36 hours of awakeness, after which they were subject to a series of tests.
They then tested their cognitive performance using a 5-minute psychomotor vigilance task. They also tested subjective, sleepiness, and mood. When they tested blood sugar and beta-hydroxybutyrate, they found the following.
The ketogenic diet actually improved psychomotor vigilance performance, which was related to mental lapses and reaction times. The ketogenic diet resulted in significantly higher performance than when they were on a carbohydrate diet. They also had significantly more subjective sleepiness. This study shows that ketogenic eating, which is a ketogenic diet, can improve cognitive and mental performance, mood, and sleepiness. What about the average person? What does the average person look like right now? Although we may not have 36 hours of sleep each night, it is possible that we are getting less than that because of things like our child being up, studying for an exam, or having to complete a project. We know this and know that poor sleep can affect our performance. If you apply this study to these scenarios, then yes, it might. Although it wasn’t tested, it is certainly indicative of it.
Many people report feeling better cognition and mental function after following a ketogenic diet. It is not clear if the evidence supports this claim. You could say that there isn’t much evidence, but clinically, many people see it and we may now see a reason why it might help with performance in the face poor sleep. This study was done using a ketogenic diet.
Similar results are being investigated in other studies using exogenous ketones, or possibly even better. Combining a ketogenic and exogenous diet could result in someone following the ketogenic diet all the time. If they are having a bad night’s sleep for any reason, perhaps taking a few extra exogenous ketones to boost their ketone levels. I don’t know if that’s true, but i’m trying to figure out how we can extrapolate other hypotheses from the study to help people. Because shift workers, who work all night, are often tired and have poor sleep quality, and they do not have any control over the outcome, then maybe ketosis could be beneficial for them.
These are fascinating studies and I’d love to see more. However, this is a great beginning.