The Ketogenic diet has been slammed with mixed reviews ever since the likes of Kim Kardashian and Rihanna have promoted it extensively. While experts believe it's full of harmful side effects, in a recent study by Gladstone Institute for Virology and Immunology in San Francisco, it has been revealed that the diet can actually slow down aging.
Running mainly on the principles of low-carb and high-fat, this eating plan – if followed – could prevent age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and even cancer, believe researchers.
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It has been established that during carbohydrate 'starvation', the body releases a chemical known as β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB), and as the aforementioned study found, this chemical protects cells from 'internal stress'. It is primarily this stress that is linked to genetic damage in cells, is leading to aging.
Katerina Akassoglou, one of the study authors, said: "The findings could be relevant for a wide range of neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, autism and traumatic brain injury. [These] diseases afflict millions and there are few treatment options."
The Keto diet – which gained its widespread popularity mainly via celebrity endorsements – forces the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates, for energy. This helps in effectively starving the body of carbs, but not calories.
The study involved restricting the calorie intake of mice, which caused their βOHB levels to rise, while simultaneously blocking the effects of the enzyme histone deacetylases (HDACs). It is inhibiting these HDACs, which lead to the activation of the genes Foxo3a and Mt2, which offer cells protection from internal stress.
Another author Eric Verdin said: "Over the years, studies have found that restricting calories slows aging and increases longevity, however, the mechanism of this effect has remained elusive.
"Here, we find that βOHB, the body's major source of energy during exercise or fasting, blocks a class of enzymes that would otherwise promote stress, thus protecting cells from aging."
The researchers also have planned to study the effect of the Ketogenic diet on the brain and heart. Akassoglou added: "The findings could be relevant for a wide range of neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, autism and traumatic brain injury. [These] diseases afflict millions and there are few treatment options."
The findings of the study were published in the journal Science.