Dr. Jon Ramsey with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine did a research with mice and the results of his study surprised almost everyone. He discovered that a high fat diet makes mice live longer.
As more and more people live into their 80s and 90s, researchers all over the world have delved into the issues of health and more important, quality of life during aging. A recent study with mice at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine reveals that a high fat, or ketogenic, diet not only increases longevity but also improves physical strength.
“The results surprised me a little,” said nutritionist Jon Ramsey, senior author of the paper that appears in the September issue of Cell Metabolism. “We expected some differences, but I was impressed by the magnitude we observed – a 13 percent increase in median life span for the mice on a high fat vs high carb diet. In simple English for humans that would mean seven to ten years. But equally important, those mice retained quality of health in later life.”
Ketogenic diets became viral and popular because of variety of health benefits, although scientists are still teasing out what happens during ketosis i.e. when carbohydrate intake is so low that the body shifts from using glucose as the main fuel source to fat burning and producing ketones for energy.
Jon Ramsey has spent the past 20 years studying the mechanics that lead to aging, a contributing factor to most major diseases that impact rodents and humans alike. Although many studies have shown that calorie restriction slows down the aging process in many animals, Ramsey was interested in the opposite – how a high fat diet may impacts the aging process?
He used mice for this purpose and split them 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).
His initial concern was that the high fat diet would increase weight and decrease life span. Researchers kept the calorie count of each diet the same.
“We designed the diet not to focus on weight loss, but to look at metabolism,” Ramsey said. “What does that do to aging?”
Results have shown that not only the median life span of mice in the study was significantly increased, but the ketogenic diet also increased memory and motor function (strength and coordination). It has also prevented an increase in age-related markers of inflammation. It had an impact on the incidence of tumors as well.
“In this case, many of the things we’re looking at aren’t much different from humans,” Ramsey said. “At a fundamental level, humans follow similar changes and experience a decrease in overall function of organs during aging. This study indicates that a ketogenic diet can have a major impact on life and health span without major weight loss or restriction of intake. It also opens a new avenue for possible dietary interventions that have an impact on aging.”
Another study that supports this one is a study published by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in the same issue of Cell Metabolism. It shows that a ketogenic diet extends longevity and improves memory in aging mice.