High-fat diets, such as the ketogenic diet, extend life and health. However, they are unviable in the long term due to their side effects.
In recent years, the ketogenic diet (characterized by being very low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats, although there are several subtypes of this diet) and high-fat diets have become very popular as they have been shown to be effective in terms of loss weight is concerned, maintaining and even improving overall health.
On the other hand, we must add the fact that during the last decades multiple studies have opened our eyes in terms of weight loss: you do not have to eliminate fats from the diet, but you have to reduce carbohydrates, and eliminate any processed foods. The ketogenic diet advocates almost completely eliminating carbohydrates, and therefore is often used "cyclically", alternating with other types of diets.
Now, two new studies have come to suggest that both a low-carbohydrate diet and the same ketogenic diet could help extend life and prevent memory loss, among other benefits. The secret? a compound called β-hydroxybutyrate, which is released in those types of diets that are very low in calories, or with a high fat content. However, as we will see today, living on butter and other types of fat forever is neither feasible nor recommended.
High-fat diets and ketogenic diet: the secret of eternal youth
According to two different studies recently published in the journal Cell Metabolism, one of them focused on studying mortality and aging and the other focused on life expectancy and long-term duration of health, eating diets high in fat or very low in calories; or specifically very low in carbohydrates in general, could lead to an increase in life expectancy, and health in general, compared to a typical diet. At least in mice.
According to these studies, mice were capable of living up to 13% longer than their congeners, which would be equivalent to 7-10 more years of life in humans, maintaining a healthy state and even improving other aspects such as memory or physical form. However, these results have their nuances to take into account and carrying out such a way of life in humans could be problematic.
In the first study, focused on mortality and aging, mice received three types of diet: a standard meal (65% carbohydrates, 18% protein and 17% fat), a high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet (70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbohydrates) and a ketogenic diet (89% fat, 10% protein and less than 1% carbohydrates).
Both high - fat and low carbohydrate as the ketogenic diet (especially in the case of the latter), the mice were able to live longer and healthier way, though not significantly. Likewise, mice fed a ketogenic diet also performed better on tests of memory, strength, agility, and speed.
In the second study, where the mice also received these three types of diet, there was an exception: the high-fat diet and the ketogenic diet occurred cyclically, that is, they alternated weekly with the standard or control diets (one week the experimental diet and the following week the high-fat diet or the ketogenic diet).
In this work, the mice also lived longer and healthier (especially those that consumed a ketogenic diet). Furthermore, the compound β-hydroxybutyrate was found to have effects on the way cells communicate, which could prevent the harmful effects of aging.
Why living on high-fat diets is a bad idea
However, despite the benefits shown by both studies on life expectancy and decreased mortality when consuming diets high in fat (whether it was low in carbohydrates or if the point of the ketogenic diet was reached), living to Fat base will not make us immortal.
In mice, the probability of death was reduced in those aged between 12 and 30 months, but at older ages the effect of these types of high-fat diets was not significant. Likewise, following a long-term ketogenic diet can cause various side effects, such as liver damage and even cardiac arrhythmias. Therefore, it is advisable to carry out this type of diet under medical supervision, and in a cyclical way, without reaching extremes in time.
Finally, for the study, the researchers had to feed the mice different types of butters and use vitamin supplements in a specific way (since the ketogenic diet is also characterized by its lack of vitamins and minerals). Therefore, living on a high-fat diet for the long term is not a very good idea.
In the case of both studies, the objective was to better understand the metabolic pathways that affect aging and health, but at the moment they do not advise carrying out this type of diet for life, but rather trying to choose a type of diet that suits our needs and help us stay in shape, always based on fruits, vegetables and legumes, avoiding processed or refined foods and without obsessing over calorie counting. Remember that a calorie is not a calorie.
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