KD longevity graph

As more people age well past their 70s, researchers have increasingly explored the issues of health and quality of life during aging. A recent mouse study at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine sheds revealed that a high-fat, or ketogenic, diet not only increases longevity, but improves physical strength as well.

Ketogenic diets have gained popularity for a variety of health benefit claims, but scientists are still teasing out what happens during ketosis, when carbohydrate intake is so low that the body shifts from using glucose as the main fuel source to burning fat and producing ketones for energy.

While calorie restriction has been shown to slow aging in many animals, Roberts et. al. were interested in how a high-fat diet may impact the aging process. In their research, they found  a 13% increase in median life span for the mice on a high-fat versus high-carb diet.

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 lifespan, the researchers kept the calorie count of each diet the same.

In addition to significantly increasing the median lifespan of mice in the study, the ketogenic diet increased memory and motor function, prevented an increase in age-related markers of inflammation, and reduced the incidence of tumors. This indicates that a ketogenic diet can have a major impact on life- and health span without major weight loss or restriction of food intake. It also opens a new avenue for possible dietary interventions that have an impact on aging.

Future studies are warranted to investigate the mechanisms through which this diet works and to optimize diet composition and feeding approaches to further extend healthspan.