Cream Cheese Improves Brain Function

Last night I had dinner with a friend in a restaurant. We chatted with a couple sitting next to us. They asked what I did research about. “Food and the brain,” I said. “What foods make the brain work best.” They asked for an example. “Butter,” I said. The woman smiled. “That’s great news! Butter is delicious.” As they left, the woman said, “I feel like I’ve learned some really interesting things.”

I agree, great news — partly because butter is delicious. Yet it fits what we already know. It’s been known since the 1920’s that a high-fat (“ketogenic”) diet can ameliorate childhood epilepsy. I suppose it’s called “ketogenic diet” to avoid the term high-fat — or to sound more “scientific”. It’s an unfortunate name because why the diet helps is unclear. “Although many hypotheses have been put forward to explain how the ketogenic diet works, it remains a mystery,” says Wikipedia.

Another example of dairy fat improving brain function comes from a little girl with a rare genetic disease:

A 3-year-old girl, . . . thanks to a diet of cream cheese, gained the ability to speak despite a disease that [had] left her mute from birth.

Fields Taylor, from Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, was born with the incurable genetic disease Glut 1 Deficiency that caused a lack of glucose to flow to her brain. Today, Taylor’s diet of four containers of the cream cheese per week gives her a voice. . . . “The amount of Philadelphia [cream cheese] she goes through is mad but worth it. It really has been our saving grace. She loves the stuff and piles it on crackers,” The Mirror quoted her mother Stevie as saying. “The first time I heard Fields say ‘Mum’ it was just wonderful.” . . . Glut 1 affects just 26 people in the U.K.

Thanks to Tom George.

3 Replies to “Cream Cheese Improves Brain Function”

  1. Unfortunately, all commercial produced cream cheese in the US contains one or more of the dreaded “gums” – guar, xanthan or carob bean – none of which I can tolerate. Fortunately, the European versions, do not – creme fraiche, mascarpone, etc., also quark and farmer cheese.


  2. “Ketogenic” implies more than just high fat, doesn’t it? The carb intake must also be low enough for the body to go into ketosis.

    Also, it seems to me that “ketogenic” diets for epilepsy are often more restrictive than ketogenic diets for weight loss or endurance sports, because some epileptics have to severely restrict their protein intake as well to avoid seizures.

    Seth: Then “high-fat low-carb diet” would have been a good name. The trouble with “ketogenic diet” is that it implies that the diet works because it produces ketosis. That coulde easily be wrong.

  3. I’m not sure that “high carb low fat” is accurate either.

    If the diet is improving brain function in people with impaired brain glucoes metabolism, it is almost certainly because of ketones – the brain cannot process fatty acids/triglycerides.

    But this does not neccessarily require it to be low carb, either. Eat coconut oil and/or medium chain triglycerides, and your body produces ketones even when you are still eating plenty of carbs.

    There is the well known case of Dr Mary Newport, who treated her husband’s alzheimers by adding coconut oil to his oatmeal, and saw improvements in days.

    This would not have been an LCHF diet, nor even “ketogenic” by the normal definition, but it does produce ketones and did improve his brain function.

    I’ll guess, and it’s just a guess, that the epileptics have to avoid certain types of proteins that have high glutamate content – as glutamate excites neurons, while ketones produce GABA to inhibit them.

    Its easy to see there’s lots more to be learnt in this area, and also easy to see that since ketones/MCT’s/coconut oil are not drugs nor patentable, there isn;t much money being devoted to research on them.

    Given Seth’s results with butter, I’m sure butyric acid helps the brain too, though likely in a different way, since it produces improvements that coconut oil doesn’t.

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