The current body of evidence suggests that the potential of keto for longevity opens up a new scope of dietary intervention that could greatly influence your quality of life and aging processes.

It seems a little overzealous to say that cutting carbs will help you live longer, but there is quite a bit of research showing the keto diet can:

For example, A recent murine study demonstrated that feeding mice the keto diet increased their lifespan and physical strength. [1]

Rather than focusing on weight loss, this study was done primarily to pinpoint the metabolic adaptions in response to the keto diet and how it affects our body as we age.  

During the study, the mice were split into three groups:

  • Group 1 – Mice were fed a regular rodent high-carb diet
  • Group 2 – The mice were given a low-carb/high-fat diet
  • Group 3 – Mice consumed a ketogenic diet (85-90% percent of total caloric intake from fats)   

The study found that:

  1. There was a significant increase in the lifespan of the mice in group 3 (fed the keto diet) compared to groups 1 and 2
  2. Group 3 experienced an increase in memory and motor function, including their coordination and strength
  3. The keto diet attenuated the increase in age-related markers of inflammation
  4.  reduced the incidence of malignant tumors

Over a period of time, it appears that both humans and mice follow similar patterns of metabolic change in response to the keto diet.

If you’re not familiar with the keto diet and how it works, be sure to check out: How to Use Exogenous Ketones for Weight Loss – The Complete Guide.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at the keto diet for longevity and how eating fat and cutting carbs may help you live longer!

Keto For Longevity: Research and Evidence

5. Keto for Enhancing Cognitive Function

Murine research has demonstrated that mice fed a high-fat diet, such as the keto diet, had enhanced locomotor function and memory recall. [1]

Once these mice went back to a “normal diet” the positive effects persisted, suggesting that the keto diet encourages changes at the cellular level.

This makes sense in that other evidence suggests the keto diet can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). [2]

BDNF is a peptide that works to regulate the growth of neural connections in your brain. Research suggests that having low levels of BDNF can contribute to Alzheimer’s, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia. [3]

Thus, the keto diet could reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disorders by upregulating BDNF production.

Furthermore, ketones (especially BHB) appear to be unique signaling metabolites in the brain that can support memory and cognitive function. [4]

4. The Role of Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Insulin Sensitivity

Your body needs energy to perform its functions, which comes predominantly in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is primarily produced by organelles called mitochondria – the “power generators” of your cells.

The improved energy output of the mitochondria in the brain provides “brain-boosting benefits” which makes the keto diet a great method for improving mitochondrial biogenesis.

Along with this, high sugar intake can contribute to spikes in insulin, causing blood sugar imbalances and reduced insulin sensitivity, which can be highly damaging to the brain.

Research suggests that eating the keto for diet may be ideal for not only improving insulin signaling but also lowering the side effects associated with high blood sugar levels. [5]

3. Keto for Fighting Inflammation

Typically,

Small amounts of oxidative stress can be beneficial; however, excess oxidative stress can be very damaging to cells and tissues.

In fact, chronic, excessive oxidative stress is the putative instigator of many modern health complications.

Scientific evidence demonstrates that ketone metabolism creates lower levels of oxidative stress as opposed to glucose, which in turn helps reduce inflammation and supports cellular health. [6]

Chronic inflammation contributes to a variety of neurodegenerative disorders, which makes the keto diet a great choice for longevity purposes as it effectively attenuates inflammatory processes (particularly in the brain).

The “typical” Western diet includes a large amount of omega-6 fats and low amounts of omega-3s. But did you know that consuming omega-3 fats from fish and grass-fed meats can help lower inflammation in your body? [7]

By following the keto diet for longevity, you will not only be reducing the overall amount of inflammation in your body but also:

  • Lowering the risk of heart disease
  • Improving arthritic conditions  
  • Potentially reducing the risk of cancer

(Read more: Can The Keto Diet Treat Cancer? What The Research Has To Say)

2. Keto Diet for Supporting Gut Health

Another important aspect of keto for longevity is that it can be great for your overall gut health.

Processed foods and refined sugar feed unwanted bacteria, which can make it easier for microbiome to get out of control.

On the contrary, cutting out processed carbs/sugar and eating more healthy fat and fiber will give your gut nutrients that stimulate the growth of “friendly” microbes; these foods typically include:

  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Inulin
  • Stevia
  • Coconut
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Leeks

Naturally,

by following the keto diet you’ll greatly reduce your intake of that are known to weaken the gut, particularly processed grains and added sugars.

Typically grains contain gluten, which can damage your intestinal walls and increase the risk of “leaky gut”.

This is why we also recommend consuming ample amounts of healthy fats – like omega-3s – on keto, which can reduce inflammation in your gut. [7] 

If you suspect your gut is compromised, it might be worth looking into some efficacious probiotics as well. You can learn more about which probiotics are best for keto here: The Top 7 Keto Diet Probiotics for Gut Health.

Should You Follow Keto for Longevity?

Scientific evidence demonstrates that following the keto diet for longevity purposes is highly pertinent for those who want to improve overall metabolic function.

Moreover, it is readily apparent that the keto diet supports cognitive function, reduces inflammation throughout the body, and improves gut health, all of which are major contributors to lifespan.

Does this mean that just because you cut carbs and eat more fat you’ll indubitably live longer than those who eat a high-carb diet?

Certainly not, let’s be realistic here.

Your lifespan can be altered by infinitely many variables and circumstances which are often out of your control.

Nevertheless, your diet is a variable you can control and the keto diet seems to be a promising nutrition regimen for longevity benefits.

Given how eating excessive carbohydrates (and calories) contributes to a myriad of metabolic dysfunctions, it’s not really surprising that doing the opposite enhances metabolic function.

As always, energy control plays the biggest role in your diet. If you decide to follow the keto diet for longevity reasons, be sure to head on over to our keto macro calculator to get started on the right foot!

1. References

1. Roberts, M. N., Wallace, M. A., Tomilov, A. A., Zhou, Z., Marcotte, G. R., Tran, D., … & Imai, D. M. (2017). A ketogenic diet extends longevity and healthspan in adult mice. Cell Metabolism26(3), 539-546.
2. Maalouf, M., Rho, J. M., & Mattson, M. P. (2009). The neuroprotective properties of calorie restriction, the ketogenic diet, and ketone bodiesBrain research reviews59(2), 293-315.
3. Brunoni, A. R., Lopes, M., & Fregni, F. (2008). A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical studies on major depression and BDNF levels: implications for the role of neuroplasticity in depressionInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology11(8), 1169-1180.
4. Newman, J. C., & Verdin, E. (2014). Ketone bodies as signaling metabolitesTrends in Endocrinology & Metabolism25(1), 42-52.
5. Boden, G., Sargrad, K., Homko, C., Mozzoli, M., & Stein, T. P. (2005). Effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on appetite, blood glucose levels, and insulin resistance in obese patients with type 2 diabetesAnnals of internal medicine142(6), 403-411.
6. Freeman, J., Veggiotti, P., Lanzi, G., Tagliabue, A., & Perucca, E. (2006). The ketogenic diet: from molecular mechanisms to clinical effectsEpilepsy Res68(2), 145-80.
7. Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseasesJournal of the American College of nutrition21(6), 495-505.

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Elliot received his BS in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and has been a freelance writer specializing in nutritional and health sciences for the past 5 years. He is thoroughly passionate about exercise, nutrition, and dietary supplementation, especially how they play a role in human health, longevity, and performance. In his free time you can most likely find him lifting weights at the gym or out hiking through the mountains of Colorado. He will also host the upcoming BioKeto podcast. You can connect with him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/elliot.reimers) and Instagram (@eazy_ell)

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