April 12, 2013

Fuel for the Brain After an Insulin-Induced Hypo

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alternativefuelThe findings of this study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation redefine our understanding of the brain’s metabolic adaptations that result from recurrent hypoglycemia.

When the brain is unable to access glucose, it is unable to adequately supply fuel for higher brain functions. Job #1 is to keep the rest of the body working, at the opportunity cost of logic and reason.

When glucose levels become severely low, it becomes extremely dangerous. In an effort to forage for alternative fuel sources, despite insulin-induced hypoglycemia, researchers looked at sources that would not be depleted by insulin.

One of the sources are ketone bodies. In the presence of normal glucose levels, the body will break-down fat for energy. In order to not lose cognitive function, the brain relies on ketones for fuel. However the Atkin’s life is not for everybody and in a land of superfluous milk and honey we just don’t see it happening.

This study has identified another source of alternative fuel for the brain in the presence of insulin-induced hypoglycemia. The body produces lactic acid from exercise. After the burn is reabsorbed into the blood, the blood concentration of lactate rises. This lactate is another identifiable source of brain fuel.

After 3 days of insulin-induced hypoglycemia, the mice were shown to have an increased rate of brain lactate uptake for fuel. During this time, cognitive function remained consistent with that observed during neuronal activity during normal glucose levels when glucose was the main source of fuel to the brain.

The unexpected findings in this study suggest that lactate, in the dire emergency of glucose unavailability, can support metabolism to replace glucose.

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