Ketogenic diets alter gut microbiome in humans, mice

Low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diets, which have attracted public interest in recent years for their proposed benefits in lowering inflammation and promoting weight loss and heart health, have a dramatic impact on the microbes residing in the human gut, collectively referred to as the microbiome, according to a new UC San Francisco study of a small cohort of volunteer subjects. Additional research in mice showed that so-called “ketone bodies,” a molecular byproduct that gives the ketogenic diet its name, directly impact the gut microbiome in ways that may ultimately suppress inflammation, suggesting evidence for potential benefits of ketone bodies as a therapy for autoimmune disorders affecting the gut.

In ketogenic diets, carbohydrate consumption is dramatically reduced in order to force the body to alter its metabolism to using fat molecules, rather than carbohydrates, as its primary energy source—producing ketone bodies as a byproduct—a shift that proponents claim has numerous health benefits.

“I got interested in this question because our prior research showed that high-fat diets induce shifts in the gut microbiome that promote metabolic and other diseases in mice, yet ketogenic diets, which are even higher in fat content, have been proposed as a way to prevent or even treat disease,” said Peter Turnbaugh, Ph.D., a UCSF associate professor of microbiology and immunology, member of the UCSF Benioff Center for Microbiome Medicine and a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator. “We decided to explore that puzzling…

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