The ketogenic diet essentially involves replacing carbohydrate-rich foods with high-fat foods. In other words, it involves not eating large amounts of rice, pasta, and bread (sigh). This forces your body to burn fat as fuel, instead of glucose. (This transition can cause your body to go through a temporary period of sluggishness—the so-called "carb flu.")
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, conducted the study on lab mice that were split up into three groups. The first group would eat a traditional diet rich in carbs. The second group would eat a relatively low-carb/high-fat diet, and the third group would follow a true ketogenic diet. The calorie count of each diet remained the same. And what they found was kind of incredible.
"We expected some differences, but I was impressed by the magnitude we observed—a 13 percent increase in median life span for the mice on a high-fat versus high-carb diet," said Jon Ramsey, the study's senior author. "In humans, that would be seven to 10 years. But equally important, those mice retained quality of health in later life.” On top of these findings, mice who followed a ketogenic diet experienced an increase in measurable memory and motor function and a decrease in incidences of inflammation and tumors.
According to Ramsey, these results are indicative of those researchers could find in humans. "At a fundamental level, humans follow similar changes and experience a decrease in overall function of organs during aging," he says. "This study indicates that a ketogenic diet can have a major impact on life and health span without major weight loss or restriction of intake. It also opens a new avenue for possible dietary interventions that have an impact on aging."
But before you make a major switch to your diet, be sure to consult your doctor. And do your research. If you're interested in learning more, try reading a cookbook like The Keto Diet ($24).