Ketone supplement could aid brain function in people with obesity

Updated: Oct 14

Ketone supplements may be a novel therapeutic strategy for protecting and improving brain health in people with obesity, according to research, ‘Short-term ketone monoester supplementation improves cerebral blood flow and cognition in obesity: a randomized-crossover trial’, published in the Journal of Physiology.

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


Supplements specifically containing the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (B-OHB) that are safe for human consumption are relatively new and have mostly been investigated for physical performance (in sports and military settings). It has previously been shown that ketone supplements are beneficial for older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia.


In this study, the researchers have extended these findings by demonstrating that ketone supplements may be a novel therapeutic strategy for protecting and improving brain health in people with obesity, who are at risk of developing neurocognitive impairment. 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 (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).


This randomised placebo-controlled crossover study- in other words, the 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 what's called a duplex ultrasound of the extra-cranial (neck) arteries. They also took blood samples to measure hormones that are like fertilizer for the brain, helping neurons grow and improving cognitive functions.


"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,” explained Dr Jeremy Walsh, first author on the study.


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. Authors received support from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research during the conduct of the research.