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J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2008 Jan;28(1):1-16. Epub 2007 Aug 8.

Cerebral metabolic adaptation and ketone metabolism after brain injury.

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  • 11UCLA Division of Neurosurgery, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


The developing central nervous system has the capacity to metabolize ketone bodies. It was once accepted that on weaning, the 'post-weaned/adult' brain was limited solely to glucose metabolism. However, increasing evidence from conditions of inadequate glucose availability or increased energy demands has shown that the adult brain is not static in its fuel options. The objective of this review is to summarize the body of literature specifically regarding cerebral ketone metabolism at different ages, under conditions of starvation and after various pathologic conditions. The evidence presented supports the following findings: (1) there is an inverse relationship between age and the brain's capacity for ketone metabolism that continues well after weaning; (2) neuroprotective potentials of ketone administration have been shown for neurodegenerative conditions, epilepsy, hypoxia/ischemia, and traumatic brain injury; and (3) there is an age-related therapeutic potential for ketone as an alternative substrate. The concept of cerebral metabolic adaptation under various physiologic and pathologic conditions is not new, but it has taken the contribution of numerous studies over many years to break the previously accepted dogma of cerebral metabolism. Our emerging understanding of cerebral metabolism is far more complex than could have been imagined. It is clear that in addition to glucose, other substrates must be considered along with fuel interactions, metabolic challenges, and cerebral maturation.

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