|Research on oxygen toxicity suggests Navy SEALS |
may benefit from higher ketone levels during deep dives.
A few days ago I linked to a study showing that a particular fatty acid, decanoic acid, could be responsible for at least some of the seizure-suppressing power of one version of the ketogenic diet. According to SeaPower Magazine, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is banking on an alternative explanation by funding research on ketone-ester oral supplements in the hope that they can quell the potentially deadly seizures sometimes experienced by special ops scuba divers.
For stealth, NAVY seals, for instance, use closed-circuit rebreathers on their oxygen supplies. While these devices minimize bubbles visible on the water's surface (a giveaway to SEAL-wary enemies) and allow for very deep dives, they also increase the risk of hyperbaric oxygen poisoning. Seizures are an occasional and usually lethal side effect oxygen toxicity.
The research, led by University of South Florida neuroscientist Dominic D'Agostino, is based on the theory that the ketone esters themselves are hefting the weight of seizure control. Underlying that idea is the observation that when brain cells burn ketones instead of glucose they become less seizure prone. The association between ketosis and seizure suppression is well established, but the causal mechanism--or mechanisms--is still hotly debated.
D'Agostino fed ketone esters to rats that were then put in deep-dive-simulating hyperbaric chambers. Compared to a control group that did not get the ketones, the first group was significantly less likely to have seizures. What's more, they also performed better on other physical and cognitive tests.
So, it seems that while specific ketogenic-diet-related fats reduce seizures, so do the presence of ketones, even when those fats are not present. At least in rodents. This suggest that the ketogenic diet may have more than one seizure-suppression mechanism going for it.
D'Agostino hopes to move his research into human trials next year.