For centuries, humans have been searching for a way to increase life expectancy rates. Advancements in technology and modern medicine have greatly increased the average lifespan and still, millions of dollars are poured into longevity research each year. Yet, improvements in the quality of living have remained fairly stagnant. In the US, the number of Americans aged 65 and over is set to double from 46 million to 92 million by 2060. Americans aged 65 and over needing care home support could see a 75% increase from 1.3 million in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2030. This care home demand is largely driven by Alzheimer’s disease which could see a steep increase of 5 million Americans to 14 million by 2050. In 2009-2012, 40% of 65-74-year-olds are obese and this statistic is not set to lower either. 
How Can The Ketogenic Diet Help The Elderly?
With these statistics in mind, having a mechanism to support health and longevity is as important as ever. The benefits of the ketogenic diet, in this regard, cannot be ignored. Research strongly suggests a link between uncontrolled blood sugar and many chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease , dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Diet is the primary contributor to blood glucose and insulin regulation. The ketogenic diet, however, can help control blood sugar and improve insulin resistance, which is key in the treatment of many of these metabolic disorders.
Insulin resistance manifests as hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels), hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels), abnormal fatty acids, cardiovascular disease, and more. Thus, a mechanism to improve insulin resistance is going to be very useful to improve longevity and the quality of life experienced in the later years. With obesity and diabetes being all the more common and looking as though it is on an upward trend into the future, many of the side-effects to these disorders are driving the need for care.
Is There a Problem With Current Nutritional Standards for Aging Populations?
Because of the poor quality of the Standard American Diet (heavily reliant on processed foods filled with inflammatory fats and refined carbohydrates), nutrition for the elderly should be heavily monitored. With a lack of mobility, cognitive impairment, energy and more, it is entirely feasible for an elderly person to be living exclusively on microwave meals, biscuits, and other nutrient depleted foods.
A diet deficient in key nutrients, including protein, can lead to an increase in injuries and a loss of lean body mass, which can further amplify the risk of injury. Furthermore, low-calorie intake is another common problem in aging populations. It can be difficult to maintain proper nutrient intake with lower food consumption. The energy requirements for the elderly diminish by about 100kcal per decade. This coupled with decreased mobility and cognitive impairments can lead to nutrition deficiencies and other diseases. For example, vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as b12 and folate are associated with cognitive impairment. Osteoporosis (reduction in bone density) is another common problem in ageing populations caused by nutrient deficiency.
What Are Some Benefits of Going Keto After 65?
With the above in mind, the adoption of a ketogenic diet can help alleviate some of the nutritional issues experienced. Some of the mechanisms behind this are as follows:
- Nutrient density – the foods included in a ketogenic diet tend to be very nutrient and energy-dense, providing both nutrients and calories needed to fight off injury and disease. Insulin sensitivity will be improved because of better glycaemic control, which can further improve nutrient absorption.
- Reduced inflammation – The anti-inflammatory nature of a ketogenic diet will lead to lower amounts of inflammatory cytokines within the body and less oxidative stress within the cells.
- Protein intake – Because of the macronutrient composition of a ketogenic diet, if adhered to properly, protein intake will be beneficial for the elderly. Rather than filling up on processed carbohydrates, a meal including protein and fats will help meet the protein requirements.
- Fat for fuel – With a reduction in glucose within the diet, fat oxidation will increase. This will lead to ketones being produced within the liver. Having access to fat for fuel.
For all of these reasons, going keto after 65 may be the answer to reducing or preventing metabolic and age-related diseases. This being said, it is important to remember that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problems associated with aging. One thing is for sure though, if society is to cope with the increase in life expectancy, quality life must be improved to reduce associated strain and suffering.
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- Emanuela Bartolozzi. (2015). The natural approach to osteoporosis. Clinical cases in mineral and bone metabolism. 12 (2)
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