Ketogenic Diet could help people live longer

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 6th September 2017

Following a ketogenic diet may help people live longer and have better memory two studies have found.

A ketogenic diet, or keto diet, involves eating a low carbohydrate, high fat and ‘adequate’ protein diet to shift the body into producing ketone to help fuel organs.

The two studies, published online by Cell Metabolism Journalism were conducted on mice and found that the keto diet improved memory in older mice. The mice also had increased chances of living to old age.

The results give hope that the keto diet could replicate the same results in humans. Human trials and tests still however need to be conducted.

Senior author of one of the papers, Eric Verdin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, said the fact that his study had such an effect on memory and preservation of brain function is really exciting.

“The older mice on the ketogenic diet had a better memory than the younger mice. That’s really remarkable,” Verdin said.

Mice in both studies were fed either a ketogenic diet, a control diet or a low carbohydrate, high fat diet. The researchers tested the mice at different ages whilst they performed tasks such as mazes, balance beams, and running wheels. Other tests included heart function, and genre regulation changes.

“The two studies reinforce each other, because they both show the same global effect on healthspan,” Verdin said.

While both studies showed improvement in mid-life lifespan and memory tests, one also found a ketogenic diet preserved physical fitness, such as grip strength, in old age.

Author of the second paper, Dr Jon Ramsey, said the magnitude of the changes surprised him.

“We’ve had the hypothesis that the shift in metabolism induced by a ketogenic diet would have beneficial effects on aging, but I was impressed by the changes we observed.”

Keto diet can result in health risks

Verdin explained that the ketogenic diet is largely about reorganising metabolism, a shock to the system which can result in health risks. Mice allowed to eat keto diet at will for example eventually become obese.

To avoid this Verdin and his researchers altered the mice between a keto diet and a regular diet. Ramset limited the calories given in the keto diet. The difference in approach may explain why mice in one study, but not the other, retained physical capabilities in old age said the researchers.

Verdin is now studying whether the effects of the keto diet can be produced through a supplement

“The ketogenic diet is a complicated, drastic diet to follow; can we reduce all of this beneficial effect to one molecule?” said Verdin.

Caution needed when connecting results to humans

Responding to the research findings, Professor Manny Noakes, Research program Director for Nutrition at CSIRO Health and Biosecurity, said caution needed to be taken when considering whether the same effects could play out on humans.

We note that firstly, the mice were lean (unlike most Australians these days), and secondly, that the “control diets” were 65-77% high glycaemic carbohydrates and included a significant amount of sucrose,” Professor Noakes said.

“So is it that the low carbohydrate/ketogenic diet is relatively effective or is it that the “control diet” is relatively adverse? I might suggest the latter but at least there is an increasing research effort into understanding lower carbohydrate dietary patterns, which have been on the fringes in the scientific literature until now.

“Our own work supports the metabolic advantages of less refined carbohydrate diets in humans with a more liberal approach to fat.”


Related articles