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Can a ketogenic diet improve concussion recovery?

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet. Fats should compose roughly 70% of the diet, with around 20% protein and 10% carbohydrate. It’s been suggested a ketogenic diet may have neuro-protective benefits and aid Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS) recovery.

How can a ketogenic diet help recovery?

In a normal diet, glucose is used as an energy substrate, derived from carbohydrates; however, following a brain injury, your brain may be unable to process glucose as normal. This suggests that an alternative energy is necessary to provide your brain with the energy needed to recover.

In a low-carb, ketogenic diet, ketones are used as energy substrates instead of glucose.

When Ketones are used to produce energy using Oxygen, more ATP is produced per molecule with Ketones than with Glucose. This excess energy can can readily cross the blood-brain barrier and provide fuel to injured neurons.

Ketones have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, potentially reducing the inflammatory response associated with concussions. Inflammation can contribute to the secondary damage following a concussion and prolong recovery. By promoting a more balanced and less inflammatory environment, ketones may help mitigate inflammation and its detrimental effects on brain tissue.


Some people may react negatively to a diet change, and these can sometimes exacerbate pre-existing PCS symptoms. Some symptoms that can occur when changing to a ketogenic diet are:

  • Vomiting

  • Stomach pain / diarrhea

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Insomnia

Furthermore, certain individuals may find it mentally straining to stick to such a restrictive diet. If following a strict diet is a cause of great stress / not possible in your current situation, it is not recommended.


A ketogenic diet is certainly something to consider when putting together a rehabilitation plan.

Preliminary evidence shows a correlation between a ketogenic diet and an improvement in concussion symptoms; however, current published studies do have limitations and a concrete conclusion is yet to be made.

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