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Key Takeaways

  • Consuming fewer calories without going into nutrient deficiency has been linked to an increase in lifespan
  • The increase in lifespan is partly thanks to a shift from a glucose-fueled metabolism (based on the breakdown of glucose) to a fat-fueled metabolism (based on the oxidation of fatty acids) 
  • The ketogenic diet is one way of achieving such changes. Studies report it can increase lifespan in mice and even preserve their physiological function in old age
  • The ketogenic diet also regulates the signaling of mTORC1 (mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1), an enzyme that plays a crucial role in regulating cell growth, division, and aging in general

Actions to Consider

  • The ketogenic diet seems to be a safe and effective way to promote longevity and healthspan. Consider trying it out to see if it works for you! Refer to our Keto section for resources on getting started. 
  • Alternatively, if the keto diet is too extreme for you, try extending your natural everyday period of fasting. For example, if your last meal on any given day is around 6 PM and your first meal is at 8 AM the next morning, you’ll be fasting for 14 hours between the meals! For many people, that’s enough to reach a state of mild ketosis.

Enhanced longevity: yet another benefit of the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet (often also called keto for short) is probably the most popular alternative eating regime at the moment. With hundreds of sources reporting about the many health benefits of keto, it’s no surprise that people are adopting it in waves.

Although the current evidence on the effects of the ketogenic diet is controversial, individual findings inspire scientists to keep digging into the matter.

And the results are highly encouraging.

One recent study we’ll review today reports that keto extended lifespan and healthspan in adult mice.

What is this study about?

Published in 2018 in the Cell Metabolism journal, this study researched if a ketogenic diet would have any effect on the lifespan and health of laboratory mice. 

What exactly is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is an eating regime that’s extremely low in carbohydrate (often under 20 net grams per day or 5-10% of one’s daily calories), high in dietary fat (70-75% of total calories), and moderate in protein (20-25% protein).

For comparison, the average healthy diet is believed to consist of 45-65% carbohydrate, 20-35% fat, and 10-35% protein.

After such a drastic switch, a body that usually gets most of its energy from carbohydrate (primarily glucose) enters the mode of ”starvation without starvation.” Precisely, it’s forced to find a new energy source, and dietary fat becomes the new primary fuel. The body shifts from glycolysis (using glucose for energy) to beta-oxidation, a process that turns fatty acids into ketone bodies. Then, the body uses these ketones for energy.

Allegedly, particular ketone bodies have individual health benefits, and the drastic decrease in carbohydrate intake is also beneficial for general health. Scientists are trying to pinpoint the exact mechanism behind these effects.

So, what did this study find?

At 12 months of age, the mice were divided into two groups. The first group was fed a ketogenic diet (89% calories from fat), and the second group received a control diet (65% calories from carbohydrate). The diet of both groups was identical in terms of calories; the only difference was the macronutrient ratio.

The ketogenic group had a 13.6% boost in median (but not maximum) lifespan. In other words, although the maximum observed age throughout the two groups was the same, more mice on the ketogenic diet reached an older age than mice from the control group.

Here’s a list of some other exciting changes seen in the study: 

  • Mice on the ketogenic diet had a significantly lower incidence of tumors
  • Memory, coordination, and strength were better in old ketogenic mice than in the control group
  • The ketogenic mice were generally more active and had more muscle

Conclusion

The ketogenic diet has been reported to have numerous health benefits, one of which may be an increase in median lifespan. Additionally, older animals on the keto diet showed better cognitive function, coordination, physical strength, and health in general.

Is this effect seen in humans?

More studies are needed to say for sure, but the current evidence is really inspiring.

Link to the study:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5609489

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