Effects of high intake of carbohydrates on brain chemistry

This is where the rubber meets the road in neurobiology.  Most  people or athletes have no idea the damaging effects of glucose from carbs on the brain.  Since the body was never designed to ingest and burn so much glucose we have a number of biochemical reactions taking place that eventually begin to make the neurons in the brain become "queasy" and continued insults will eventually become neurotoxic and kill theses neurons off.  Remember the brain constitutes 20-25% of the bodies energy needs so it needs a constant fuel source to operate, one that is steady and reliable.  However by constantly loading our bodies with carbs to produce glucose we are stressing our system into an emergency situation to react to survive.  Again we are not fundamentally designed for this.  So what happens to us on a biochemical basis?

When we have carbs as our primary fuel source it takes a lot of insulin to push glucose into skeletal tissue.  The result is leaning more toward insulin resistant than the optimal insulin sensitive.  Second with glucose as the primary fuel source there is a lot of blood sugar dysregulation or ups and downs.  This drives the stress response system to become activated in a chronic way, again not what the body was designed for.  The body then responds by pumping  a lot of cortisol into the blood stream.  Cortisol is a glucocorticoid good for an immediate danger when we need the fight and flight system activated but damaging long term.  

High amounts of cortisol start to make neurons in the brain "queasy" or not really operating correctly.  The more insults that take place the more cortisol starts to kill these neurons.  Now, the body has a built in mechanism to fight this but it is extremely energy dependent.  When things begin to cross that threshold of getting out of hand there isn't enough energy to activate this system and we now have neurotoxicity and neuron death.  This predominately takes place in the limbic part of the brain called the hippocampus with a vengense.  

The hippocampus is dopaminergic dependent.  Dopamine converts to norepinephrine then epinephrine all of these have to do with short term memory, motivation, mood, cognition, pleasure.  The next area that is affected is the amygdala or the part of the brain that deals with fear.  Your not sure you can do something anymore, you're afraid to try it, etc.  Next the frontal cortex which deals with analytics, figuring things out and emotions.  Making critical decisions or rationalizing what to do in a split second.  

Not to mention that carb burning is a "dirty fuel" that creates inflammation in the body.  The effects here are longer recovery times and stressing the stress response system leading back to what I just covered, damaging effects to the brain.   

The beneficial effects of the brain burning predominately ketones for fuel

  • neuroprotective
  • increased cognition
  • promotes neurogenesis (the building of new neurons)
  • increases motivation
  • reduction in inflammation
  • decreasing ROS or free radicals that cause RNA damage and aging
  • becoming metabolically "bonk proof" not hitting the wall 

Couple using Ketones for fuel and Amino Acid Therapy

You will have optimized your brains potential to think clearly, analyze situations, be motivated, retain memory and have less stress.  A healthy brain dictates what transpires in the rest of the body.  The body is a cascading effect and it all starts in the command and control center of the limbic part of the brain.