Reducing calories and eating low-carb foods, something scientists at the Gladstone Institutes call the Ketogenic Diet, could delay the aging process. According to a study headed up by Gladstone Senior Investigator Eric Verdin, MD, the development of this anti-aging ketogenic diet could help to eventually combat age-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and certain forms of mental deterioration.
“Over the years, studies have found that restricting calories slows aging and increases longevity—however the mechanism of this effect has remained elusive,” Verdin said in a statement. “Here, we find that βOHB—the body’s major source of energy during exercise or fasting—blocks a class of enzymes that would otherwise promote oxidative stress, thus protecting cells from aging.”
Why does Ketogenic Diet work?
Verdin and his team focused on the effects compound β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB), a ketone body, when test cells were evaluated from subjects on the low-calorie, low-carb ketogenic diet.
What they discovered was βOHB, at non-toxic, lower levels, helped prevent the ravages of oxidative stress, a process which contributes to aging cells within the body.
While oxidative stress occurs naturally as cells produce energy, researchers hope to slow down the process through dietary control, hopefully reducing the amount of free radicals, a byproduct of oxidative stress.
βOHB production blocks enzymes called histone deacetylases, or HDACs, which are responsible for keeping two specific genes within the body switched off. By increasing βOHB, researchers were able to switch those inactive genes on.
Once activated, the genes initiate a process which helps cells combat oxidative stress, thus helping to slow the aging process.
Verdin feels the discovery will eventually lead to a method of preventing damage to any cell within the human body.
“This breakthrough also greatly advances our understanding of the underlying mechanism behind HDACs, which had already been known to be involved in aging and neurological disease,” said in the statement, Gladstone Investigator Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, an expert in neurological diseases and one of the paper’s co-authors. “The findings could be relevant for a wide range of neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism and traumatic brain injury—diseases that afflict millions and for which there are few treatment options.”