Ketone supplementation may protect brain function from obesity complications

In the study, adults with obesity volunteered to consume either a ketone supplement or a taste-matched placebo supplement three times per day, 15 minutes before each meal

People with obesity are known to be at a higher risk of developing cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative diseases. A recent study published in The Journal of Physiology found giving a ketone supplement three times a day for 14 days enhanced blood flow to the brain and improved aspects of cognitive function, including working memory and processing speed, in adults with obesity.

Supplements specifically containing the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (B-OHB) are relatively recent, the researchers say, and have mostly been investigated for physical performance in sports and military settings. It's previously been suggested ketone supplements are beneficial for older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia.

In this study, researchers extended these findings by demonstrating ketone supplements may have potential as a therapeutic strategy for protecting and improving brain health in people with obesity. In the study, adults with obesity volunteered to consume either a ketone supplement or a taste-matched placebo supplement three times per day, 15 minutes before each meal.

Participants were randomly assigned to take the supplement or the placebo for the first 14-day period, and they were then switched to the other condition for another 14-day period. This allows researchers to compare responses to the supplement versus a placebo in the same participants.

The researchers provided participants all meals and snacks for both 14-day intervention periods. They measured cognitive function using validated tests via an application on an iPad, and measured brain blood flow using a duplex ultrasound of the extra-cranial arteries. They also took blood samples to measure hormones associated with neuron growth and improved cognitive functions.

Dr Jeremy Walsh, first author on the study, said: “Once validated with a larger group of people, we expect that these supplements can be used to protect and improve brain health in people with obesity.” The study was conducted at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus and was funded by a Grant-in-Aid from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

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