Node Smith, ND

Research Article Supports Anti-aging Effects of Ketogenic Diet

You may have been seeing a fair bit about the ketogenic diet. A handful of online publications have been commenting on a research article supporting the anti-aging effects of the ketogenic diet.1 The news is NOT new, and the article that is being referenced is actually from 2013. However, it’s a great reminder that calorie restriction, fasting and ketogenic diets all have a growing body of research supporting their use for decreasing inflammation, increasing cognitive function, lowering the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and a host of other health benefits.

Keto Diet and Calorie Restriction Studied in the Prevention of the Aging Process

The article in question, published by the journal Science in 2013, specifically addresses a ketogenic diet as well as calorie restriction in the prevention of the aging process. Though the findings are not exactly “new,” the ketogenic diet as well as calorie restriction has been shown to decrease the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Mechanism of Action Behind the Ketogenic Diet

The mechanism of action behind the ketogenic diet is likely that it stimulates some of the same physiological effects as fasting, or calorie restriction. As the body’s glucose and glycogen stores are diminished more and more fatty acids are used for fuel, and more energy is conserved, creating less oxidative stress. This is simply one mechanism.

This Key Metabolite is Produced in Higher Amounts and Utilized as Fuel During Ketosis

This specific research study reminds us of a key metabolite which is produced during in higher amounts and utilized as fuel during the fasting state (or during ketosis) – β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB). βOHB is used as a major source of energy during the fasting state, as well as during exercise, and actually blocks enzymes which promote oxidative stress – thus protecting cells from damage/aging. The enzymes that βOHB blocks are deacetylases, or HDACs, which modulate how genes are expressed.

Two of these genes, which HDACs normally inhibit, are Foxo3a and Mt2. When βOHB blocks HDACs, these two genes are then activated which leads to downstream effects that actually lowers oxidative stress.

Effects of the Ketogenic Diet

The effects of the ketogenic diet, calorie restriction and fasting continues to be of specific clinical interest to the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, as well as traumatic brain injury. Cardiovascular and metabolic diseases are also benefited by these diets.


  1. Shimazu T, Hirschey MD, Newman J, et al. Suppression of oxidative stress by β-hydroxybutyrate, an endogenous histone deacetylase inhibitor. Science. 2013;339(6116):211-4.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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