Ketosis extends lifespan

ketosis extends lifespan

Ketosis and ketone bodies

Ketone bodies are the small molecules that are produced by the liver when the body is in a state of ketosis. These can be readily used by the body and, most notably, the nervous system, and one of their functions is to spare lean tissue during ketosis, since with the burning of ketones, the body does not have to break down muscle in order to make blood glucose.

The state of ketosis is readily entered when severely restricting carbohydrates in the diet for just a short while; for instance, if someone goes on the Atkins diet, or generally keeps carbs below 50 grams a day. (If one exercises a lot or is otherwise physically active, one can eat more carbs, say up to 100 grams, and remain in ketosis.)

Ketosis extends lifespan in C. elegans

It turns out that in the roundworm C. elegans, one of the ketone bodies, beta hydroxybutyrate, extends lifespan: D-beta-hydroxybutyrate extends lifespan in C. elegans.

βHB supplementation extended mean lifespan by approximately 20%. … βHB did not extend lifespan in a genetic model of dietary restriction indicating that βHB is likely functioning through a similar mechanism. βHB addition also upregulated ΒHB dehydrogenase activity and increased oxygen consumption in the worms.

So, the ketone functioned similarly to dietary restriction, increased lifespan by 20%, and caused increased metabolism.

It looks like being in ketosis much of the time could be, gasp, good for you.

The probable future Nobel Laureate Cynthia Kenyon discovered that a mutation in insulin signalling in C. elegans caused radically increased lifespan. When she made that discovery, she herself went on a low-carbohydrate diet.

So, add all this to the evidence for the healthiness of a low-carbohydrate diet.


Leave a Comment:

BigBadBear says August 22, 2014

I’ve done keto before, and like many, noticed drastic improvements in my gastric function and levels of water retention.

However, it really isn’t well suited to heavy lifting. I followed the apex predator diet with a single weekly carb refeed, but by halfway through the week I was totally glycogen depleted and my lifts had gone to shit.

I wonder if a cyclical diet like CPWO (carbless post workout) with alternate day fasted cardio would confer many of the same benefits.

Mangan says August 22, 2014

I think the key there is ketoadaptation, the state of being adapted to burning ketones instead of glycogen. Takes a while to get there, and carb refeedings will interrupt that. I discussed a book on this blog, The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance, which has extensive discussion of this. Also a recent study showed no loss of power and strength on low-carb. Personally I’ve never noticed a difference in energy levels between high and low carb.

    BigBadBear says August 22, 2014

    Ok, I’ll check it out and give keto another shot, without the refeeds. Cheers for the info

Ben says February 24, 2016

A slight issue with this – I suppose just supplementing with betaHB is not the same as being in ketosis? Ketosis should have additional benefits due to carb restriction – lower insulin, inflamation etc.

Thanks for pointing out Cynthia Kenyon’s research – it is amazing! So it seems insulin & IGF-1 are pro-aging. I remembered your growth-longetivity trade-off article and did some digging. Here’s what I found:

Ketogenic diet significantly reduced IGF-1 (also presumably insulin but not measured here) and IGF-1 stabilized around 3 months after starting KD.
Here’s the interesting part: KD slowed down the growth rate (height velocity) of small children! Since it stops growth, it is likely to be pro-longetivity as per the growth-longetivity trade-off.

So for longetivity, i.e. maximum lifespan, perhaps the best strategy would be to start a ketogenic diet once you reach adulthood? Do you know of any negative effects this could have (due to lower IGF-1 for example)?

    P. D. Mangan says February 24, 2016

    Very interesting find, that study. I’m coming to the conclusion that one type of eating is best for youth, another type best for adulthood and maturity. From the study, it appears you wouldn’t want to put a child on a ketogenic diet – unless you had to, as in those kids. But at adulthood, it ought to be the best for slowing aging. Likewise, you don’t want to limit iron in childhood, but in adulthood, it slows aging. This all flows from the growth-longevity trade-off. One wrinkle here is that even childhood growth probably contributes to aging, so you don’t necessarily want a child to be as tall and strong as possible, though I doubt if many people would choose to limit their child’s growth.

    PS: Yes, there are some downsides to low IGF-1 in adulthood/old age. Higher risk of dementia, sarcopenia, and osteoporosis (off the top of my head). Those are associational though, cause not proven. OTOH, lower IGF-1 would bring less cancer and heart disease, probably.

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