Keto diet could cause harmful changes to gut flora, worsen heart health

A diet high in fat content, such as the popular Keto diet, is a key contributor to heart failure, inflammation, diabetes, and other health risks, according to a study. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and other contributing institutions say a high-fat diet with aging affects the gut microbiome, the anatomy and physiology of the spleen, and immune response. Study researchers remain hopeful that these essential findings will translate into beneficial medical preventions, treatments, and therapies in the future.

Aspects of the Research Study

Prior research confirms the intricate interchanges between the body’s immune system and the microbiome of the gut. In line with this thinking, UAB researchers add the effects of a high-fat diet and aging into the mix to explore how these parameters will change health outcomes in animal models.

(Photo by Edson Saldaña on Unsplash)

Researchers discovered that a calorie-dense diet high in Omega 6 fatty acids that contributes to obesity sharply boosts the presence of bacteria in the gut of the Allobaculum genus, thus altering the original bacteria content in the gut microbiome. In addition to this, a high-fat diet fed to young mice increases the number of neutrophils in their bloodstream. 

Researchers find that a high-fat diet and aging cause neutrophil count to increase in the bloodstream, and alterations to the leukocyte occur following a heart attack. 

They also discovered changes to the form and function of the spleen. The spleen is an organ that aids in the immune system functions and houses leukocytes. The release of leukocytes occurs after a heart attack to repair heart muscle tissue and lessen inflammation.

Even after changes to the gut microbiome due to diet, younger mice eating a high-fat diet could still internally resolve inflammation following a heart attack. However, older mice eating the high-fat diet could not fully resolve internal inflammation, which links to acute heart failure. 

Overarching Study Findings

Researchers find that a high-fat diet in older mice heavily interrupts the gut microbiome composition. This disturbance to the microbiota of the gut acts in association with internal system-wide inflammation resulting in heart failure. Additionally, the inflammation disrupts immune cell function, particularly the ratio of neutrophil to leukocyte.

“Thus, the data strongly indicate that the obesity-generating diet develops an inflammatory microenvironment, even in young mice, that amplifies with aging […] This study highlights that diet and age are critical factors that have differential impact with age, and it highlights the spleen and heart as an inter-organ communication system with the immune defense system” explains Ganesh Halade, Ph.D. in a recent statement. Halade is an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Department of Medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Disease.

This research adds to the growing library of negative health outcomes of a high-fat diet, both on the gut and the immune system response throughout the body. Additionally, the negative effects of a high-fat diet tend to get stronger as individuals age. The scientific community and medical professionals expect these groundbreaking new findings will benefit future patients with heart disorders as they age.     

This study is published in The FASEB Journal.

1 thought on “Keto diet could cause harmful changes to gut flora, worsen heart health”

  1. “Keto diet could cause harmful changes”.
    The article cited is NOT keto diet.

    A complex subject, but using “Keto” is very misleading. Keto actually is LOW CARB, in combo with clean fat.

    Thanks for your attention and revue. W R Meredith, MD


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