We all desire to live a long, healthy life free of debilitating disease or suffering in our old age. And while none of us can live forever, there are ways to take care of ourselves now and increase the chance of staying fit and vital even into our golden years.
We know that there are many benefits of the ketogenic diet. But what about longevity? In this article, we’ll be covering some of the different ways you can use ketosis for longevity and how these ways show promise in promoting a healthy state of being as we get older.
Can We Live Longer in Ketosis?
This is a question worth exploring, especially as humans are living longer yet suffering from disease and illnesses often related to diet and lifestyle choices. Here is some of the research currently available on the potential of ketosis for longevity:
Ketosis and Mitochondria
One theory regarding longevity is that the key to living longer lies in taking care of our mitochondria, as they are responsible for energy production in our cells. Being in ketosis is known to have hugely beneficial effects on the function of the mitochondria by:
- Raising the levels of antioxidants in the mitochondria 
- Increasing the number of mitochondria in neurons of the hippocampus, which is crucial for normal brain function, in rats 
- Reducing the number of reactive oxygen species, which are damaging to the mitochondria cell structures in high amounts 
Ketosis and Aging-Related Disease
Diseases related to aging obviously have a huge impact on longevity, so looking at the effect of ketosis on these diseases is significant. Here are some ways ketones have shown potential benefits:
- Giving acetoacetate ketones in mouse models has been shown to have a protective effect on neurotoxicity in brain cells. 
- A small study showed Parkinson’s disease patients had positive results following a 28-day ketogenic diet. 
- Another small study showed ketones given orally to adults with Alzheimer’s disease every day improved cognition within 90 days. 
Larger studies on humans are needed, but these results might demonstrate helpful qualities of ketones and ketosis in protecting us from the decline seen in so many of our fellow humans as they age.
Low-Carb for Longevity
We know that following a diet full of nutrients and antioxidants with low carb and sugar intake, high amounts of high-quality protein, colorful vegetables, and healthy fats, is a powerful way to support our health.
While not specific to ketosis, the simply low-carb and whole foods qualities of the ketogenic diet provide us with many benefits that can protect us from common conditions associated with poor diet, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Getting older without these concerns removes the risk of dying from them, which is obviously good for overall lifespan.
There is also research showing potential of the ketogenic diet for slowing the effects of aging. Carbohydrate metabolism might drive aspects of the aging process, while the calorie restriction that shifts the body from burning glucose to burning free fatty acids may retard the aging process. 
Also on the subject of calorie restriction for anti-aging, let’s not forget ketosis provides a powerful way to eat less food overall due to the high satisfaction we get from fats and high-quality proteins. Be sure to check out the blog, ketosis for hunger suppression, for more on this.
Ketosis for Mental Longevity
Mental health is a big part of living a longer, more fulfilling life, especially with the debilitating cognition-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, we’re seeing so commonly in the aging population these days.
Research has demonstrated possibly protective effects of the ketogenic diet, including:
- Ketosis for neurodegenerative conditions: Following a ketogenic diet may be able to help in reducing neurodegenerative conditions  and improving cognitive performance associated with age,  both factors that can greatly affect quality of life as we get older.
- Protective effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate: The ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate specifically may be able to provide protective protection against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.  Plus, beta-hydroxybutyrate plays a key role in brain health.
- Ketosis for cognitive impairment: Ketosis has been shown as beneficial for adults with memory impairment from Alzheimer’s disease, providing an alternative fuel source to glucose. 
Besides the potential for ketosis to have a positive effect on longevity, it’s also worth looking at how the diet compares to the current Standard American Diet (SAD) most people are subsisting on today.
The Ketogenic Diet vs Western Diet and Aging
As you can see, research related to ketosis and anti-aging shows promise for the ketogenic diet as beneficial for longevity. The downside is that most ketosis and ketogenic diet research in this area so far is limited to animal studies. This is understandable, as longevity experiments on humans in ketosis would take a very long time to accurately test its effects on normal human aging.
That being said, the ketogenic diet certainly doesn’t seem to hurt our chances of longevity when we look at all of the benefits it can offer — especially in contrast with what the majority of the Western world is consuming: high amounts of processed carbohydrates, sugars, and other packaged “foods” that provide little to no nutritional value. It’s pretty safe to say that the long-term damage caused by this way of eating is far more concerning.
The ketogenic diet not only provides a high level of nutrition through whole foods sources, it also promotes a positive effect on blood sugar, weight, satiety, and fuel source for an aging brain, which are all areas in need of support when it comes to living a longer, happier life.
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Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
After growing his sports rehab and functional medicine clinics to six locations in San Francisco, he shifted his mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.