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J Lipid Res. 2014 Nov;55(11):2211-28. doi: 10.1194/jlr.R048975. Epub 2014 May 20.

Ketogenic diets, mitochondria, and neurological diseases.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Colorado, Denver, CO.
Departments of Pediatrics and Clinical Neurosciences, Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute for Child and Maternal Health, University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


The ketogenic diet (KD) is a broad-spectrum therapy for medically intractable epilepsy and is receiving growing attention as a potential treatment for neurological disorders arising in part from bioenergetic dysregulation. The high-fat/low-carbohydrate "classic KD", as well as dietary variations such as the medium-chain triglyceride diet, the modified Atkins diet, the low-glycemic index treatment, and caloric restriction, enhance cellular metabolic and mitochondrial function. Hence, the broad neuroprotective properties of such therapies may stem from improved cellular metabolism. Data from clinical and preclinical studies indicate that these diets restrict glycolysis and increase fatty acid oxidation, actions which result in ketosis, replenishment of the TCA cycle (i.e., anaplerosis), restoration of neurotransmitter and ion channel function, and enhanced mitochondrial respiration. Further, there is mounting evidence that the KD and its variants can impact key signaling pathways that evolved to sense the energetic state of the cell, and that help maintain cellular homeostasis. These pathways, which include PPARs, AMP-activated kinase, mammalian target of rapamycin, and the sirtuins, have all been recently implicated in the neuroprotective effects of the KD. Further research in this area may lead to future therapeutic strategies aimed at mimicking the pleiotropic neuroprotective effects of the KD.


cellular signaling; fatty acids; ketone; oxidative stress

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