New Study: Keto Diet Linked to Accelerated Organ Ageing in Mice

Written by Henrik Rothen

May.18 - 2024 9:12 AM CET

Keto diet may accelerate organ ageing, increasing health risks, study finds.

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A new study reveals that the popular ketogenic diet, widely adopted for weight loss and blood sugar control, might have some serious side effects.

Research has found that a keto diet can lead to the accumulation of senescent cells in the organs of mice, potentially accelerating organ ageing and increasing the risk of various health conditions.

Accumulation of "Zombie" Cells in Mice

In an effort to understand the broader health implications of the keto diet, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, led by David Gius, conducted an experiment involving mice.

The study involved feeding six mice a ketogenic diet, where over 90 percent of their calories came from fat and less than 1 percent from carbohydrates, for three weeks.

A control group of mice was fed a standard diet with 17 percent of calories from fat and 58 percent from carbohydrates.

When the researchers examined tissue samples from the heart, kidney, liver, and brain of the mice, they found a significant increase in senescent cells in the organs of those on the keto diet compared to those on a standard diet.

Senescent cells, often referred to as "zombie" cells, are damaged cells that have stopped functioning but do not die. Instead, they accumulate in tissues, releasing toxins that cause inflammation and can contribute to ageing and disease.

Implications for Organ Ageing

The increase in senescent cells in mice on the ketogenic diet is concerning because these cells tend to increase with age.

The study's findings suggest that the keto diet might accelerate the ageing of organs, which could elevate the risk of conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Notably, when the mice were switched back to a standard diet, the number of senescent cells decreased.

David Gius emphasized the need for further investigation:

“While the ketogenic diet is probably a good thing, [it is not for] everyone. And importantly, you need to take a break. I think our paper really says we need to study this more rigorously.”

Russell Jones from the Van Andel Institute in Michigan points out that while the findings are significant, their applicability to humans is uncertain. “They’re running a 90 percent fat diet, and that would be virtually impossible to adhere to as a human,” Jones noted.

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