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A high-fat diet may lead to a longer life

An examination of the link between diet and age-related health issues has produced some surprising results. The study has revealed that a high fat diet not only increases longevity but also improves physical strength.

Researchers from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine set out to examine the health outcomes of eating various types of foods. The team conducted tests on mice to analyze the effects of three different diets, which ranged from a diet high in carbohydrates to a diet that consisted of 89-90 percent fat.

“The results surprised me a little,” said senior author and nutritionist Jon Ramsey. “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 vs high carb diet. In humans, that would be seven to 10 years. But equally important, those mice retained quality of health in later life.”

For the last 20 years, Ramsey has studied the mechanics that lead to aging, which is a large contributor to major diseases in both rodents and humans. Previous studies have shown that calorie restriction slows the aging process in many animals, but Ramsey wanted to see how a high fat diet could impact the aging process.

The mice were divided into three groups and given different diets for the study. The researchers kept the calorie count the same across all three diets out of concern that the high-fat diet, also known as a ketogenic diet, would increase weight and decrease lifespan.

“We designed the diet not to focus on weight loss, but to look at metabolism,” said Ramsey. “What does that do to aging?”

The ketogenic diet significantly increased the average lifespan of the mice in the study. The high-fat diet also improved memory, strength, and coordination. Furthermore, the ketogenic diet prevented an increase in age-related markers of inflammation and tumors.

“In this case, many of the things we’re looking at aren’t much different from humans,” explained Ramsey. “At a fundamental level, humans follow similar changes and experience a decrease in overall function of organs during aging. 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.”

The findings of the study are published this month in the journal Cell Metabolism.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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