A new study shows that a high-fat, low-carb diet that has become popular in recent years can extend a person’s lifespan.
Researchers at Stanford University in the Bay Area found that the ketogenic diet, often referred to as keto, can help muscle and stem cells survive stress and allow a person to live longer.
Keto diets are extremely low carb but very high in fat. This trains the body to burn fat and convert fat into energy. They became famous for burning extreme amounts of weight in a short period of time.
The rise of nutrition in some communities has caused some controversy, with some warning that despite short-term benefits, it could lead to nutrient deficiencies and other long-term problems.
Researchers found that a high-fat, low-carb, ketogenic diet can extend a person’s lifespan in the same way as a normal fasting dose (photo).
The keto diet is high in fat and virtually eliminates all carbs
A keto diet reduces a person’s carbohydrate intake and instead uses protein and fat to get daily calories
People on the ketogenic diet experience rapid weight loss, although prolonged use can lead to serious long-term health problems
The goal is to reach ketosis, a point where a person uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates
The diet has been linked to rapid weight gain, reduced risk of diabetes or prediabetes, and other health benefits
People on a keto diet also often report lower levels of harmful cholesterol and other heart positive developments
There are fears that long-term use of a keto diet will result in someone developing chronic health problems
Nutrient deficiencies are a common problem for people on a ketogenic diet
Sources: Healthline, Mayo Clinic
Researchers who published their findings in Cell Metabolism last week found that the ketogenic diet has many of the same beneficial effects on a person’s cells as fasting.
In a test on mice, the researchers found that those who had fasted for 1 to 2.5 days had more resilient muscle cells.
While repair took longer when damaged, cells in fasting mice took much less damage.
“We found that fasting induces muscle stem cell resilience, allowing them to survive during withdrawal and be available for muscle repair when nutrients become available again,” said Dr. Thomas Rando, professor of neurology at Stanford, in a university publication.
However, long-term fasting is not sustainable and can be very uncomfortable for a person on a daily basis.
Eating a keto diet, which is much more realistic, appeared to have the same effect as fasting on mouse cells on which keto was tested.
The ketone-induced cells were more resilient, surviving longer when deprived of nutrients, exposed to harmful chemicals or radiation.
Cells could also be transported into other animals that were not fasting or on the keto diet.
“Typically, most lab-grown muscle stem cells die when they’re transplanted,” Rando said.
“But these cells are in a deep state of rest, which we call ketone-induced deep rest, that allows them to withstand many types of stress.”
Mice fed directly on a ketogenic diet also showed similar effects, according to the research team.
Keto diets have been gaining traction on social media in recent years, and while they’re great for shedding fat and weight, some worry those using them may be suffering from nutrient deficiencies that can lead to longer-term problems
“Cells have evolved to exist in times of plenty and in times of scarcity,” Rando said.
“They had to be able to survive when food wasn’t readily available. Ketone bodies are formed when the body uses fat for energy, but they also put stem cells into a dormant state that protects them during withdrawal.
“In this state, they are protected from environmental pollution, but they are also less able to regenerate damaged tissue.”
The results are promising for ketogenic diet advocates, many of whom have surfaced on social media — with varying levels of expertise as nutritionists.
Keto diets have been touted as ways to lose weight and cut fat without going on a calorie-restricted diet.
The risks of obesity, diabetes and prediabetes – all of which are rising sharply in the US – are also low.
However, there are some major downsides, some of which are so great that nutritionists advise against them.
First, according to Healthline, a person just beginning the diet could suffer an experience called “keto flu,” in which the body suffers from severe fatigue and other symptoms as a result of switching its body’s energy sources.
It also leads to deficiencies in many nutrients if not treated well, and can lead to a variety of bone and organ problems later in life. It can even lead to the development of chronic diseases.