How the Keto Diet Affects the Aging Process, According to Science

keto diet effects to aging

While aging is an inevitable part of life, you can slow down the aging process through diet. The keto diet, which cuts carbs to 50 grams and increases dietary fat, has been shown to positively affect your longevity and lifespan, according to studies.

Keto May Reduce Midlife Mortality and Preserve Memory

More individuals ages 25 to 64 are dying at a higher rate than in previous years. The National Institute on Aging states that some of the potential reasons behind this increased mortality include alcohol-related liver disease and obesity-related to other health conditions (1).

Keto can help reduce mortality and prevent memory decline. A 2017 study done by Newman et al. put mice on a feeding regimen. It found that mice that followed a cyclical keto diet (CKD) — an approach where you alternate between very low carb and higher carb intake — had reduced mortality compared to the control group (2).

When it came to the preservation of memory and healthspan, the mice were tested across a diverse range of tasks on cognition and physical function. Results showed that the cyclical keto diet group had better memory recall and showed an improvement in age-related physical performance decline. It’s also interesting to note that the cyclical keto diet group had good cardiac scores (2).

Keto Prevents Age-Related Muscle Loss

Sarcopenia refers to the loss of muscle mass, strength, and performance which starts at 40 years of age. Unfortunately, age-related changes in the quantity and quality of your muscle result in your inability to complete simple tasks, including falls and fractures (3)(4).

Research shows that sarcopenia is caused by multiple factors, such as obesity, insulin resistance, and inadequate protein intake — which can be improved by following the keto diet (3).

A 2021 study investigated the impact of keto on maintaining skeletal muscle mass, and it found that following the keto diet long-term works. More specifically, the mice that were fed a keto diet weren’t just able to maintain their muscle mass, but their grip strength and wire hang performance also improved (5).

One explanation for this is that keto increases mitochondrial biogenesis — a process where your mitochondria (which generate energy) increase in both size and numbers (6).

For those who don’t know, your mitochondria affect your health and the aging process. In the same study above, it was explained that following a keto diet, even for a short period of time, can cause a significant increase in SIRT1, SIRT3, and PGC-1α. This indicates mitochondrial biogenesis (6).

Keto Reduces Insulin Resistance, Which Increases With Aging

Another change that your body experiences as you age is that it secretes less insulin. Insulin is the hormone that moves glucose from your blood into your cells, which makes it important for blood glucose control (7).

This may explain why older people are more likely to be insulin resistant, along with the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (8).

One study discovered that a low-carb diet improved postprandial (after mealtimes) insulin sensitivity in as little as 4 weeks. By reducing carbs, you can lower your blood glucose levels. Ketones, which your liver produces through carb reduction, also have an effect on lowering blood glucose, as stated in a 2018 research paper (9).

Instead of taking medications, the keto diet can be a natural way to prevent and overcome insulin resistance. Older adults can do this, along with other lifestyle strategies like exercise and stress management.

Conclusion

Muscle loss, insulin resistance, and health problems are commonly seen in aging individuals. But just because they’re seen in a lot of older people, doesn’t mean they’re normal. Eating a keto diet can be a natural approach to aging gracefully. Reducing carbohydrates certainly helps, but keep in mind to incorporate other lifestyle practices that promote good health.

References:

  • National Institute of Aging. Deaths in middle-aged adults drive decrease in U.S. life expectancy. 2019 December 19
  • Newman J, Covarrubias A, Zhao M et al. Ketogenic Diet Reduces Midlife Mortality and Improves Memory in Aging Mice. 2017 Septemeber 5
  • Ardeljan A, Hurezeanu R. Sarcopenia. 2022 July 4
  • Yeung S, Reijnierse E, Pham V et al. Sarcopenia and its association with falls and fractures in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. 2019 April 16
  • Wallace M, Aguirre N, Marcotte G et al. The ketogenic diet preserves skeletal muscle with aging in mice. 2021 March 06
  • Tsiloulis T, Watt M. Molecular and Cellular Regulation of Adaptation to Exercise. 2015
  • Stefanacci R. Changes in the Body With Aging. 2022 September
  • Shou J, Chen P, Xiao W. Mechanism of increased risk of insulin resistance in aging skeletal muscle. 2020 February 11
  • Myette-Côté É, Neudorf H, Rafiei H et al. Prior ingestion of exogenous ketone monoester attenuates the glycaemic response to an oral glucose tolerance test in healthy young individuals. 2018 February 15
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Tiffany Joy Yamut, RN
Tiffany Joy Yamut, RN
Tiffany Joy Yamut is a registered nurse and author of hundreds of health and nutrition articles focused on the ketogenic diet. She discovered the keto diet in 2019, which helped her lose 44 pounds and achieve healing. She’s been featured in Perfect Keto, Ketogenic, Kiss My Keto, and other top health and wellness websites. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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Evidence based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written and reviewed by experts.

The founders of Ketogenic Buddies are health care professionals. As we grow, we include other qualified subject matter experts as part of our content team.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.