Does the keto diet cause organs to age faster?

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Research in mice suggests that keto diets may accelerate organ aging. Image credit: Susan Brooks-Dammann/Stocksy.
  • Scientists recently researched mice to see what impact ketogenic diets have on the internal body organs.
  • People who follow a ketogenic — or keto — diet typically consume foods that are higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates.
  • While people following this type of diet often lose a significant amount of weight in a short timeframe, medical experts are concerned about the potential risks of keto diets.
  • The scientists in the current study found that mice on ketogenic diets experienced increased rates of cellular aging in their body organs.

Researchers from UTHealth San Antonio, TX, recently published a paper in Science Advances looking at the effects of ketogenic, also known as “keto,” diets on mice.

With the increasing obesity rates in the United States, many people turn to diets they think can help them lose a lot of weight. The keto diet, traditionally used to treat epilepsy, is one such diet that has gained popularity.

Some hallmarks of the keto diet include eating higher amounts of fats while reducing the intake of carbohydrates.

The researchers who conducted the current study took a closer look at ketogenic diets by experimenting on mice to see what impacts the diet has on health. They were primarily interested in whether the diet contributes to cellular senescence.

Their findings showed that when comparing a group of mice on ketogenic diets to mice in a control group, the mice on the ketogenic diets experienced higher rates of aging in their body organs.

Scott Keatley, a registered dietician and owner of a private nutrition practice in New York City, not involved in this research, spoke with Medical News Today about the study findings.

“The findings are significant as they provide a mechanistic understanding of how long-term ketogenic diets can potentially lead to cellular aging and dysfunction in critical organs such as the kidneys and heart,” he commented.

“This underscores the need for careful consideration of diet duration and composition when recommending ketogenic diets, particularly for patients with existing organ concerns or those at risk for chronic diseases,” continued Keatley.

He also noted that longitudinal trials in humans are the next step to confirming whether ketogenic diets cause cellular senescence.

“It’s important for the audience to understand that while ketogenic diets have proven benefits, particularly in managing epilepsy and promoting weight loss as a calorie restricted diet, their long-term effects are not yet fully understood and could include significant Health risks,” said Keatley. “Anyone considering such a diet should do so under medical guidance.”

Steve Gendron, PhD, a immunology and endocrinology specialist, not involved in the study, also emphasized the need for trials in humans, when commenting on the findings:

“We need to follow folks on keto diets for years, not just weeks or months. Think of it like watching a TV series versus a short movie — you get the full story over time; this helps us see how keto impacts organs and overall health in the long run.”

Gendron also said he wants to see studies among diverse populations and studies that compare how the keto diet stacks up to other diets for certain health issues.

“The study used specific types of ketogenic diets, but there are many ways to do keto,” Gendron noted when asked about the study’s weaknesses. “More variety in the diet types could give a fuller picture.”

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