We’ve discussed various degrees of carbohydrate restriction a lot on this site.
For example, carbohydrates are associated with more heart disease and a higher death rate. Avoiding dietary carbohydrates and sugar can extend lifespan by keeping blood glucose normal.
Avoiding (especially refined) carbohydrates and sugar is a cornerstone of longer lifespan and healthspan.
The highest level of carbohydrate restriction, with the lowest amount of carbohydrates, is the very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet (VLCKD).
The ketogenic diet is called this because it generates ketones, which are small molecules that the body can use to make up for a lack of glucose, which comes from eating carbohydrates. The ketones are the molecules beta hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, and acetone.
The body uses fat from both body fat and dietary fat to make ketones.
There are many indications that being in a state of ketosis, that is, when your body is producing ketones, is a uniquely healthy state.
For example, the ketogenic diet extends lifespan in lab animals.
(Roberts, Megan N., et al. “A ketogenic diet extends longevity and healthspan in adult mice.” Cell Metabolism 26.3 (2017): 539-546.)
Ketones mimic the lifespan-extending properties of calorie restriction.
(Veech, Richard L., et al. “Ketone bodies mimic the life span extending properties of caloric restriction.” IUBMB Life 69.5 (2017): 305-314.)
Calorie restriction extends lifespan, and it may be possible to get all the benefits of it without actually restricting food.
All you would need to do is restrict carbohydrates.
Much more scientific research needs to be done to look at the connection between ketones, calorie restriction, and longer life, but the connection looks very promising.
Intermittent fasting also produces ketones.
And there may be a way to boost ketone production when you’re fasting or eating a ketogenic diet.
Caffeine boosts ketone production.
(Vandenberghe, Camille, et al. “Caffeine intake increases plasma ketones: an acute metabolic study in humans.” Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 95.4 (2016): 455-458.)
Caffeine given at two different doses, 2.5 mg per kg of body weight, or 5.0 mg/kg, stimulated ketone production as much as an overnight fast.
“This short-term study showed that caffeine intake can stimulate ketogenesis by increasing β-HB concentrations by 88-116% with a maximum within four hours post-dose .”
The lower dose, 2.5 mg/kg is equivalent to about 1.5 cups of coffee for a person who weighs 70 kg, and the higher dose to about 3 cups.
So, the dose is well within what many people drink already.
Of interest, the caffeine boosted ketone production even when the volunteers ate 85 grams of carbs for breakfast. That’s unexpected, because ingestion of carbs is thought to all but eliminate ketosis.
Coffee has other benefits when combined with a ketogenic diet or with fasting.
Coffee stimulates autophagy, the cellular self-cleansing process that rids cells of junk.
(Pietrocola, Federico, et al. “Coffee induces autophagy in vivo.” Cell Cycle 13.12 (2014): 1987-1994.)
That means that coffee boosts one of the main healthful effects of fasting or the ketogenic diet.
Autophagy is required for lifespan extension, and declines with age.
So increasing it has solid benefits for fighting aging.
( Madeo, Frank, et al. “Essential role for autophagy in life span extension.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation 125.1 (2015): 85-93. )
Generally, the higher the level of ketones in the blood, the more beneficial. So for instance, drinking coffee while fasting should boost ketones even more.
Yet another benefit of coffee – or tea, which also contains caffeine – is that they suppress hunger.
All in all, coffee provides many health benefits, and ketone production is one of them.
You can enjoy coffee along with a low-carb diet or fasting knowing that it does these things. Coffee is also associated with lower risk of diabetes, and tea with lower risk of heart disease.