The Ketogenic Diet has been gaining a lot of traction and recognition, especially in the last few years because many people have achieved success with this way of eating.
As more visibility is given to this diet, there are more research and studies conducted on this topic. Although several other popular diets have been dismissed as “hoaxes” after scientifical research on them is conducted, the Ketogenic Diet’s position as a legitimate healthy diet has been only further cemented as more studies on the diet have been released.
The most recent data collected from two studies released on the first week of September 2017 indicate that a Ketogenic Diet can reduce midlife mortality, improve memory in aging, extend longevity, and healthspan.
In an attempt to share these new findings, we have decided to write an article shedding some light on these two studies on aging mice.
Study #1. Midlife Mortality and Memory in Aging Mice
The first study entitled “Ketogenic Diet Reduces Midlife Mortality and Improves Memory in Aging Mice” was published in September 2017 and it has already been highly publicized by the media and the scientific community.
The study was conducted by Drs. Eric Verdin and John Newman, from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California.
– Feeding isoprotein ketogenic diet to mice every other week (Cyclic Ketogenic Diet avoids obesity;
– Cyclic Ketogenic Diet reduces midlife mortality with no change in maximum lifespan;
– Cyclic Ketogenic Diet prevents memory decline with modest other healthspan effects;
– Gene expression of Ketogenic Diet is similar to high-fat diet, except for activation of PPARα targets (involved in modulation of lipid metabolism).
During the study, it was investigated whether an isoprotein ketogenic diet (KD) might, like dietary restriction, affect longevity and healthspan in male mice.
When it comes to mortality it was found that a Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (following cycles of one week), reduces midlife mortality, although it does not affect maximum lifespan.
It was also found that a Cyclic Ketogenic Diet improves memory performance in old age, while modestly improving composite healthspan measures.
Although not unique to this study, it was also found that there is also a down-regulation of insulin, protein synthesis, and fatty acid synthesis pathways. In all, it was shown that a non-obesogenic ketogenic diet improves survival, memory, and healthspan in aging mice.
The impact of this study
One of the researchers involved in the study, Verdin, has claimed the results obtained represent a fundamental step towards finding new therapies for the cognitive problems of aging:
“As we gain a deeper understanding of what BHB does in our body and our brain, we can intelligently design therapies to capture individual benefits while minimizing harms.”
(BHB is a ketone body named beta-hydroxybutyrate acid, one of the ketone bodies formed during Ketosis)
The Verdin lab, of which Verdin is a part of, is currently exploring beneficial effects of a similar ketogenic diet in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.
It is also quite important to recognize the fact that this particular study followed a so-called Cyclic Ketogenic Diet, meaning the mice were fed a Ketogenic Diet for a week, followed by a week of non-Ketogenic Diet. Perhaps the key to the results obtained reside in this method, although more research is needed to prove this statement.
Study #2. Longevity and Healthspan in Adult Mice
The second study entitled “A Ketogenic Diet Extends Longevity and Healthspan in Adult Mice“, was published in September 2017 as well.
The study was led by led by Dr. John Ramsey from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and took an in-depth look at adult mice’s longevity and healthspan when following a Ketogenic Diet. The mice were assigned to a ketogenic, low-carbohydrate, or control diet at 12 months of age and were either allowed to live their natural lifespan or tested for physiological function after 1 or 14 months of dietary intervention.
– A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet extends longevity in adult male mice;
– Motor function, memory, and muscle mass are preserved in aged ketogenic mice;
– Protein acetylation is increased in the liver and skeletal muscle of ketogenic mice.
During this second study, it was investigated whether calorie restriction, without malnutrition, could lead to an increase in lifespan.
Not only was this statement above proven correct during this study, it was also found that there is a shift away from glycolysis toward beta-oxidation, that is a shift from the use of carbohydrates from glycogen as energy fuel, into the use of fat as energy fuel.
The ketogenic diet (KD) significantly increased median lifespan and survival compared to controls. In aged mice, only those consuming a KD displayed preservation of physiological function, that is, showed no physiological signs associated with aging.
The KD increased protein acetylation levels in a tissue-dependent matter, that is, there was modulation of metabolism only in specific tissues.
Lastly, it was concomitantly found that a KD slows cognitive decline and preserves motor function in aging mice.
The impact of this study
The results obtained have surprised even Dr. Ramsey himself, who has stated:
“The results surprised me a little, (…) We expected some differences, but I was impressed by the magnitude we observed — a 13% increase in median life span for the mice on a high-fat versus high-carb diet. In humans, that would be seven to 10 years. But equally important, those mice retained the quality of health in later life.”
The fact that a dietary change could lead to such a monumental change in terms of lifespan represents a new horizon for Humanity.
As more studies are released, it becomes easier to prove the value of the Ketogenic Diet. We only hope that more studies like the ones above mentioned are soon released, thus opening up a new frontier in medical discovery. More than an academic anecdote, these studies can have real life positive consequences not only in the lifespan but also in the quality of life of those adhering to the Ketogenic Diet.