Quick Summary tl;dr
In normal healthy mice, a ketogenic diet increases median lifespan by 13% and also improves physical and cognitive health span.
Studies on the long-term effects of ketogenic diets on longevity and health span have not yet been conducted in humans.
Beyond being an effective way to shred body fat, reverse diabetes, and potentially treat other chronic diseases, such as dementia, the question remains: Is the ketogenic diet actually good for the average person’s long-term health?
The short answer is that we don’t really know because nobody has done a long-term controlled study in humans. However, some animal data (Roberts et al., 2017) published in one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals, Cell Metabolism, suggests that perhaps it is!
In this study, normal healthy adult mice were split into three diet groups. One group ate a control diet containing moderate-carbohydrate mouse chow, another ate a diet that was low in carbohydrates but not quite ketogenic, and the third ate a proper ketogenic diet.
Importantly, all three diets contained equal number of calories so caloric restriction could not impact the experimental results. Fascinatingly, the ketogenic diet group not only lived the longest (their median lifespan was 13.6% longer than the control mice) but also maintained the best physical strength and cognitive ability into old age!
The ketogenic diet extends lifespan in mice by 13.6% as compared to a calorie-matched standard diet.
The scientist also did biochemical tests on the mice to try to determine some of the mechanisms underlaying these data and found some interesting changes in DNA markers (DNA acetylation) and enzyme activity levels (including mTOR) that were consistent with the longevity and healthspan results. ( Norwitz et al., 2020) (As an important aside, the low-carb group tended to perform between the control and ketogenic groups on most tests, including lifespan.)
While these data need to be replicated, and should be taken with a grain of salt because mice are not humans, they are at least consistent with the hypothesis that the ketogenic diet might be a generally positive lifestyle choice, even for healthy people.
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