We all want to live a long life free of disease and suffering. It’s impossible to live forever, but there are ways to take care of our bodies and increase the likelihood of staying healthy and full of life well into a person’s golden years. In particular, there are many benefits to being on a ketogenic diet, which is a high fat, low carb diet. Studies have shown that this diet may help people live longer and healthier lives. The Body Reboot book discusses this further and to use this diet to one’s advantage. Below are some of the studies that show this incredible diet has the potential to give us the fountain of youth!
Perfect Keto argues that one of the theories surrounding living a longer life by being on a high fat, low carb diet is due to taking more excellent care of our mitochondria. Improve the function of your mitochondria, and you’ll likely have a better life and live longer!
One theory regarding longevity is that the key to living longer lies in taking care of our mitochondria, as they are responsible for energy production in our cells. Being in ketosis is known to have hugely beneficial effects on the function of the mitochondria by:
Raising the levels of antioxidants in the mitochondria
Increasing the number of mitochondria in neurons of the hippocampus, which is crucial for normal brain function, in rats
Reducing the number of reactive oxygen species, which are damaging to the mitochondria cell structures in high amounts
Ketosis and Aging-Related Disease
Diseases related to aging obviously have a huge impact on longevity, so looking at the effect of ketosis on these diseases is significant. Here are some ways ketones have shown potential benefits:
Giving acetoacetate ketones in mouse models has been shown to have a protective effect on neurotoxicity in brain cells.
A small study showed Parkinson’s disease patients had positive results following a 28-day ketogenic diet.
Another small study showed ketones given orally to adults with Alzheimer’s disease every day improved cognition within 90 days.
Larger studies on humans are needed, but these results might demonstrate helpful qualities of ketones and ketosis in protecting us from the decline seen in so many of our fellow humans as they age.
Healthline gives an excellent overview of a study done by Cell Metabolism. (Keep reading to read the study’s summary below.)
Masino has spent years researching the ketogenic diet, metabolism, and brain health — that is, how what we eat affects our brains.
How the studies were conducted
In Verdin’s study, some mice were fed between 70 percent and 90 percent of their daily food calories from fat.
That was compared with control groups receiving only 13 percent to 17 percent from fat, with carbohydrate calories making up the bulk of the difference.
The mice on higher fat diets had longer lives, lower midlife mortality rates, and performed better on tests pertaining to certain cognitive functioning.
The results “clearly demonstrate that lifespan is increased in mice consuming a ketogenic diet,” compared with a control group, the authors wrote.
But, it’s impossible to say that such a conclusion could be reproduced in humans.
As such, some experts are more measured in their assessment of these findings.
Susan Weiner, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN, a dietitian and diabetes educator, agrees that the results are promising, but she cautions that it is still “too soon to recommend” the diet to many individuals.
Here’s the study’s summary from Cell Metabolism. Talk about impressive results that revealed how the keto diet has many health benefits!
Calorie restriction, without malnutrition, has been shown to increase lifespan and is associated with a shift away from glycolysis toward beta-oxidation. The objective of this study was to mimic this metabolic shift using low-carbohydrate diets and to determine the influence of these diets on longevity and healthspan in mice. C57BL/6 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. 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. The KD increased protein acetylation levels and regulated mTORC1 signaling in a tissue-dependent manner. This study demonstrates that a KD extends longevity and healthspan in mice.
Graduate Group in Nutritional Biology further discusses this study and how the keto diet can also improve memory and motor function.
The study mice were split into three groups: a regular rodent high-carb diet, a low-carb/high-fat diet, and a ketogenic diet (89-90 percent of total calorie intake). Originally concerned that the high-fat diet would increase weight and decrease life span, the researchers kept the calorie count of each diet the same.
“We designed the diet not to focus on weight loss, but to look at metabolism,” Ramsey said. “What does that do to aging?”
In addition to significantly increasing the median life span of mice in the study, the ketogenic diet increased memory and motor function (strength and coordination), and prevented an increase in age-related markers of inflammation. It had reduced the incidence of tumors, as well.
“In this case, many of the things we’re looking at aren’t much different from humans,” Ramsey said. “At a fundamental level, humans follow similar changes and experience a decrease in overall function of organs during aging. This study indicates that a ketogenic diet can have a major impact on life and health span without major weight loss or restriction of intake. It also opens a new avenue for possible dietary interventions that have an impact on aging.”
Researchers do not know at this time if there is an optimum fat for a ketogenic diet.
A companion study published by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in the same issue of Cell Metabolism shows that a ketogenic diet extends longevity and improves memory in aging mice.
Men’s Journal also discussed the Cellular study and how it has the potential to help people live longer lives.
“The results surprised me a little,” said Opens a New Window. senior author Jon Ramsey, Ph.D., a research of molecular bioscience at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “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 vs. high-carb diet. In humans, that would be seven to 10 years. But equally important, those mice retained quality of health in later life.”
Further research discussed on Science Daily shows the keto diet has the potential to slow the effects of aging due to the reduction in calories. Calorie restriction results in the body burning free fatty acids instead of glucose, and this can reverse the aging process.
“Over the years, studies have found that restricting calories slows aging and increases longevity — however the mechanism of this effect has remained elusive” Dr. Verdin said. Dr. Verdin, the paper's senior author, directs the Center for HIV & Aging at Gladstone and is also a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, with which Gladstone is affiliated. “Here, we find that βOHB — the body's major source of energy during exercise or fasting — blocks a class of enzymes that would otherwise promote oxidative stress, thus protecting cells from aging.”
Oxidative stress occurs as cells use oxygen to produce energy, but this activity also releases other potentially toxic molecules, known as free radicals. As cells age, they become less effective in clearing these free radicals — leading to cell damage, oxidative stress and the effects of aging.
However, Dr. Verdin and his team found that βOHB might actually help delay this process. In a series of laboratory experiments — first in human cells in a dish and then in tissues taken from mice — the team monitored the biochemical changes that occur when βOHB is administered during a chronic calorie-restricted diet. The researchers found that calorie restriction spurs βOHB production, which blocked the activity of a class of enzymes called histone deacetylases, or HDACs.
“Identifying βOHB as a link between caloric restriction and protection from oxidative stress opens up a variety of new avenues to researchers for combating disease,” said Tadahiro Shimazu, a Gladstone postdoctoral fellow and the paper's lead author. “In the future, we will continue to explore the role of βOHB — especially how it affects the body's other organs, such as the heart or brain — to confirm whether the compound's protective effects can be applied throughout the body.”
We don’t know about you, but the fountain of youth sounds pretty great! Learn more about the keto diet in the Body Reboot book, and find out how it can help you live a longer, healthier life. Get a free copy of our book by helping us cover shipping. Visit this page and get your copy today!
Sources: Cell Metabolism, Healthline, NCBI: “A Ketogenic Diet Extends Longevity and Healthspan in Adult Mice.” Cell metabolism, vol. 26,3 (2017), Graduate Group in Nutritional Biology, Men’s Journal, Perfect Keto, Science Daily
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