Keto study finds 'dramatic' gut bacteria changes that cool inflammation

The ketogenic diet, more commonly referred to as 'keto,' causes dramatic changes in gut bacteria that contribute to a reduction in inflammation, according to a new study. The findings come from the University of California – San Diego, where researchers found that the ketone bodies produced by a high-fat, low-carb diet may contribute to reduced inflammation.

The keto diet is simple, at least in terms of complexity: dieters must eat very low amounts of carbohydrates and must eat sufficient amounts of fat, which may come in the form of healthy oils, fatty fish, nuts, and similar foods. By following this protocol, the body makes a somewhat uncomfortable transition from burning carbs to fat as its primary fuel source.

The keto diet is popular because of the associated weight loss and heart health benefits some dieters experience. Some studies have also linked the diet to improvements in some inflammatory conditions, as well, such as a reduction in arthritis or Crohn's symptoms. Changes in gut bacteria may explain this benefit, according to the new study.

The keto diet used in the study was 80-percent fat, 15-percent protein, and 5-percent carbs; one group was fed that low-carb diet while another group of volunteers was fed a standard diet featuring 50-percent carbs, 15-percent protein, and 35-percent fat. After eating their respective diets for four weeks, each group switched to the opposite diet.

Using data from the study, as well as additional work involving mice, the researchers found that a high-fat diet combined with eating low amounts of carbohydrates produced 'dramatic' changes in gut bacteria related to ketone bodies. These changes ultimately helped cool down inflammation in the body, highlighting ketones as a potential treatment option for certain autoimmune conditions.