Keto Diet and Hypoxia Alter Gut Microbiota, Leading to Cognitive Impairment

A newly published paper looks at the discovered activities of the gut microbiota. These changes in the intestinal region could potentially affect the brain and the behavior of living organisms, including humans.

The study of how the microbes in the gut work and the main goals of this process were presented by the experts at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Microbiome and hippocampus

(Photo: Ann H from Pexels)

According to the study, the microbes are microorganisms that can trigger and worsen cognitive impairment due to their effects on a specific region in the brain, deep inside the temporal lobe responsible for learning and memory, also known as the hippocampus.

The intestinal microbiota of mice served as a model for the observation. According to the study, one group of bacteria increased significantly when the mice were fed a diet low in carbohydrates but high in fat called the ketogenic diet. The bacteria that have increased in concentration are known as bilophila and can potentially cause poor oxygen distribution throughout the system, leading to hypoxia.

Applying the combined effects between processes and bacteria, including hypoxia, the ketogenic diet, and Bilophila wadsworthia, had a profound effect on the hippocampus and eventually impaired the subject’s cognitive abilities.

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Cognitive decline: mouse experiment shows cognitive impairment in combination of microbiome, hypoxia and ketogenic diet

The experiments involved two separate groups to test, including those subjects who were on a normal diet and the others who were on a ketogenic diet. Technology Networks reported that both groups were purposely given low oxygen levels for five days throughout the test, but were able to recover in the following four days.

Cognitive impairment is correlated with oxygen starvation, and the latter is important to be applied to the subjects to mimic the perfect conditions that occur during cognitive impairment. The findings under these circumstances could provide us with answers to the reasons for age-related cognitive impairment and neurological diseases.

The mouse subjects were also allowed to walk through a challenging maze to test whether they are able to find their way around with their current cognitive ability and type of diet. The group on the normal diet had a higher success rate in escaping the maze than the group on the ketogenic diet. The difference in escape rate between the two groups was between 25 and 75%.

The diets alone were also tested in the study to determine whether they could single-handedly influence the cognitive abilities of the subjects who were not deprived of their oxygen supply. The results showed no change in the subjects, and they were able to escape the maze despite the diet being treated. This eliminates the notion of cognitive impairment from diet alone, but it has been found that cognitive abilities only fail when combined with the lack of oxygen.

The final experiment involved microbiota depletion in mice prior to ketogenic diet and hypoxia. The group that had microbiota depletion alone was found to have a higher escape rate than the group that was exposed to a ketogenic diet and hypoxia, and had no changes in their microbiota levels.

UCLA expert and lead author on the study, Christine Olson, said the results of her observation highlight the critical factors that could influence cognitive behavior in mice.

In summary, the ketogenic diet and hypoxia determine how the microbes affect the brain and lead to cognitive impairment. The study was published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, entitled “Alterations in the Gut Microbiota Contribute to Cognitive Impairment Induced by the Ketogenic Diet and Hypoxia”.

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