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The research is in early stages, but if it works, sign us up
By Jack Crosbie
There are any number of ways to lose weight out there, but for many men and women, there’s one big enemy standing in their way: carbs. Carbs, overwhelmingly, are delicious, but unless you’re literally a marathon runner, it often feels like every french fry or slice of sourdough bread is going straight into your gut and staying there. But researchers may be working toward a solution that combines the best of both worlds: a miracle pill that mimics the health benefits of a ketogenic diet without forcing you to end your loving relationship with carbs.
It’s important to note, right away, that this research is in its infancy—if you were looking for an excuse to go wild on a plate of pasta tonight, this ain’t it. The research is largely based on two independent studies on mice which showed that a high-fat, zero-carb pure ketogenic diet made mice live longer and age slower. The drawback, of course, is that humans aren’t mice, and the diets necessary for the study would be extremely difficult, if not dangerous to achieve for a normal person (one of the studies, at the University of California, Davis, put the mice on a 90 percent fat diet). Basically, the researchers realized that carbs are actually great, and giving them up totally sucks.
“The biggest problem with the [ketogenic] diet is that it is difficult to maintain as a lifestyle,” Dr. Eric Verdin, the lead researcher of a newer study, published Tuesday, told the Guardian. “It’s an antisocial diet. You can hardly eat anything that most of us like.”
That’s where the pill comes in. Ketogenic diets are difficult for humans both because not eating carbs sucks, and because high-fat diets can cause havoc on the body by increasing LDL, or “bad cholesterol” levels. (Mice aren’t as susceptible to LDL, so they can pig out on the greasy stuff to their tiny hearts’ content.)
Verdin’s study at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California found that one of the biggest benefits of the diet was a “ketone body” called BHB, which the mice’s bodies produced during ketosis. As the Guardian notes, Verdin has been researching BHB for years, and found in 2013 that it had the potential to either protect cells from or reduce the microscopic wear and tear that accumulates as bodies get older, lengthening lifespans and helping people feel healthy much later in their lives. To get around the minefields of LDL and bread-free diets, Verdin is now trying to develop a compound, taken as a supplement, that would help the body generate BHB and reap its benefits without making people deluge themselves in fat.
“I’m excited about this, and it’s hard not to be after what we’ve seen that it does. These are pretty profound effects,” Verdin told The Guardian about the original study. His research is ongoing, but the initial results are certainly a fresh look at narrowing down the exact chemicals and bodily processes that help us live healthier lives—and then making pills out of them.
Originally published on menshealth.com