Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

The superfood that feeds both your muscles and your brain

with 2 comments

There are three main food groups: proteins, carbohydrates and fat. Now the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is trying to create a fourth group. In doing so it hopes to provide soldiers, mountaineers and athletes with an extra source of energy and a means of maintaining their peak physical performance for longer.

During exercise, your muscles get most of their energy by burning a mixture of carbohydrates and fat. But if you are starving, the body begins to get extra energy from ketone bodies, acidic chemicals produced when the liver breaks down fatty acids. These are particularly important for the brain, as they can cross the blood-brain barrier and keep it supplied with energy.

Ketone bodies are not usually produced in large amounts, and they are not easy to get from food. But they are a more efficient source of fuel than fatty acids.

“The question we asked ourselves was ‘can we fundamentally modify a person’s diet to maintain their peak performance for longer?'” says Brett Giroir, manager of DARPA’s Peak Soldier Performance programme. For the past few years, Kieran Clarke and her colleagues at the University of Oxford have been collaborating with DARPA to find forms of ketone bodies that could be taken up by the gut and used as a fuel.

“You can’t give pure ketones, because they are too acid, and they would get used up very quickly,” says Clarke. Instead, her team has created “ketone polymers” – chains of ketone bodies that can be broken down over time to create a sustained release of ketones.

Rats fed with ketone polymers ran 30 per cent faster and 30 per cent further on a treadmill on five consecutive days than those fed carbohydrates or fat. They also showed enhanced cognitive abilities. Human trials of the polymers are expected to start this year. New Scientist, Superfood that feeds both your muscles and your brain (subscription only).

How amusing is this?! It’s a sidebar in an article about athletic performance and differences in genes in different sports people that affect the way they burn energy and grow different types of muscle fibres, and even how muscles can be trained to use different types of fuel for energy. A significant part of the article is taken up in speculation about Lance Armstrong’s special endurance abilities during the Tour de France – he was born with a larger heart and lungs than most people, and he appears to be much better at burning fat – triglycerides – and therefore conserves his glycogen supplies for longer.

The question it begs is: if ketones are so great for both energy and endurance, and the body has it’s own slow-release ketone-creation mechanism built in, why doesn’t DARPA spend more time studying the usefulness of a ketogenic diet for energy and endurance?

I’ve been fiddling with my diet and have just gone into ketosis today. I’d forgotten how energetic it made me feel.


Written by alienrobotgirl

6 August, 2007 at 4:01 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Great post. It makes me groan there when scientists suddnely discover ketones. I don’t want to turn this into a link bonanza, but there are a couple of good articles about this you’d be interested in:There is a realy good article here reviewing the effect of a ketogenic diet on physical performance – especially the endurance of cyclists. They coped fine with the diet. is an interview with the researcher who did the experiments here same study gets referred to here: this is an intersting take on things by a former top climber and current cyclist who explains the importance of fat for endurance:……..and I just came across this one, published today(!) guess what, low carb diets work!, I need to get to bed. Went to a realy good concert tonight and am now knackered.


    9 August, 2007 at 12:12 am

  2. Thanks for the fantastic links Chris!

    Alien Robot Girl

    9 August, 2007 at 4:48 pm

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