Rationale: After alcohol ingestion, the brain partly switches from consumption of glucose to consumption of the alcohol metabolite acetate. In heavy drinkers, the switch persists after abrupt abstinence, leading to the hypothesis that the resting brain may be "starved" when acetate levels suddenly drop during abstinence, despite normal blood glucose, contributing to withdrawal symptoms. We hypothesized that ketone bodies, like acetate, could act as alternative fuels in the brain and alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
Objectives: We previously reported that a ketogenic diet during alcohol exposure reduced acute withdrawal symptoms in rats. Here, our goals were to test whether (1) we could reproduce our findings, in mice and with longer alcohol exposure; (2) ketone bodies alone are sufficient to reduce withdrawal symptoms (clarifying mechanism); (3) introduction of ketogenic diets at abstinence (a clinically more practical implementation) would also be effective.
Methods: Male C57BL/6NTac mice had intermittent alcohol exposure for 3 weeks using liquid diet. Somatic alcohol withdrawal symptoms were measured as handling-induced convulsions; anxiety-like behavior was measured using the light-dark transition test. We tested a ketogenic diet, and a ketone monoester supplement with a regular carbohydrate-containing diet.
Results: The regular diet with ketone monoester was sufficient to reduce handling-induced convulsions and anxiety-like behaviors in early withdrawal. Only the ketone monoester reduced handling-induced convulsions when given during abstinence, consistent with faster elevation of blood ketones, relative to ketogenic diet.
Conclusions: These findings support the potential utility of therapeutic ketosis as an adjunctive treatment in early detoxification in alcohol-dependent patients seeking to become abstinent.
Keywords: Alcohol dependence; Alcohol withdrawal; Alcoholism; Anxiety-like behavior; Detoxification; Ethanol; Ketone bodies; Ketone monoester; Mice.