According to a team of researchers the fruit fly version of the ketogenic diet of humans, a diet regimen that can also be used to lose weight, can be very useful for this animal to reduce aggression after concussions. It is of this opinion a research group of the University of Connecticut that published a study on Frontiers in Neuroscience.
Concussion studies are becoming more and more numerous since a kind of scandal has erupted regarding the impact of American football on professional athletes, impacts that for many of these athletes seem to have caused permanent brain damage. And since the concussion treatments themselves are quite scarce, as Derek Lee, a researcher involved in the study, admits, research like this may prove to be very useful and not as useful to themselves as it might seem.
According to Lee himself, who worked with neurobiologist Geoff Tanner, concussions can kill brain cells through so-called excitotoxicity. The latter is a phenomenon that sees cells become excessively excited precisely because of injuries to the skull and consume all the glucose, a substance that they need to produce energy. This leads them to death.
However, glucose itself is not the only source of energy for brain cells: they can also function thanks to the so-called ketone bodies produced by fats. They can metabolise them instead of glucose and can remain “calmer”, preventing convulsions and, in the case of concussions, excitotoxicity.
In order to prove this theory, researchers have carried out experiments on fruit flies. They took several male specimens and inserted them in a particular device that simulated the traumatic impact on the head that a human being who is diagnosed with a concussion may have.
After these repeated brain injuries the researchers divided the gnats into two groups: one fed a normal carbohydrate diet and the other fed a diet supplemented with beta-hydroxybutyrate, a ketone body, therefore a diet very close to what can be considered the ketogenic diet for humans.
The gnats of the first group, those of the traditional diet, were more aggressive among themselves when confronted with a female specimen than the males of the second group fed on a ketogenic diet. According to the researchers, such a diet may work as a treatment to protect injured brain cells and help them recover, at least in fruit flies. The researchers now want to find out whether such effects could also occur with regard to concussions in humans.