New Study Reveals Accumulation of Aged Cells in Normal Tissues from Long-Term Ketogenic Diet

A new study led by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) has revealed that a continuous long-term ketogenic diet may have negative effects on normal tissues, inducing cellular senescence, or aged cells. This study found that the effects on heart and kidney function were particularly notable with this diet. However, the research also showed that an intermittent ketogenic diet, where individuals take planned breaks from the diet, did not exhibit the same pro-inflammatory effects due to aged cells.

The implications of these findings are significant in the realm of clinical nutrition, suggesting that the beneficial effects of a ketogenic diet could potentially be enhanced by incorporating planned breaks. According to lead author David Gius, approximately 13 million Americans currently follow a ketogenic diet, and it is important for individuals to be aware of the potential long-term consequences if breaks are not taken from this diet.

The study, titled “Ketogenic diet induces p53-dependent cellular senescence in multiple organs,” was published in the journal Science Advances on May 17. The research was conducted in collaboration with various institutions including the Department of Radiation Oncology and Mays Cancer Center, as well as the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, among others.

A ketogenic diet, known for being high-fat and low-carbohydrate, generates ketones in the liver as fats are broken down. While this diet has been popular for weight loss and improving certain health conditions, there have also been reports of pro-inflammatory effects. The study on mice subjected to two different ketogenic diets at varying ages showed that cellular senescence was induced in multiple organs, with the heart and kidney being particularly affected. However, the use of a senolytic, which can destroy senescent cells, and the implementation of an intermittent ketogenic diet regimen were effective in preventing cellular senescence.

Gius emphasized the importance of taking breaks from a ketogenic diet, as cellular senescence is implicated in the development of organ diseases. He advised that, like with other dietary interventions, individuals should consider incorporating planned breaks to optimize the benefits of the diet.

For those interested in more information, the study, “Ketogenic diet induces p53-dependent cellular senescence in multiple organs,” can be accessed in the journal Science Advances with the DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.ado1463. The research was conducted by Sung-Jen Wei and collaborators and published in 2024.

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