Ketosis for Seniors

Many attribute pain and sickness to old age, but getting older does not mean getting sicker—at least, it doesn’t have to. Not only will we explore the connection between aging and health, this article will take a look at how diet and lifestyle play a big part in continuing to a live a long and healthy life. Whether you have a loved one in your life that is age 65+, or if you fall within that age category, let’s take a look at how ketosis for seniors can help everyone enjoy the golden years. 

Senior Health and Ketosis

Part of aging does involve a degree of decline in how we can function, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating and isolating. This is, unfortunately, a sad reality for many seniors and elders in our society. The high-carb, processed diet often prescribed for people of this age group is not helping, either.

Rather than seeing getting older as unfortunate, we can support healthier mental and physical health at any age through a more proper diet. And the truth is: there are many advantages of following a ketogenic diet for senior adults.

Benefits of Following a Ketogenic Diet

Here are some of the ways being in ketosis and eating healthy ketogenic foods can address concerns often faced by seniors today:

Insulin resistance: Many senior citizens in our society are overweight and dealing with insulin-related conditions like diabetes. This is serious, as diabetes can lead to things like vision loss, kidney disease, and more.

Bone health: Osteoporosis, in which reduced bone density causes bones to become fragile and brittle, is one of the most common conditions seen in older men and women. More calcium through daily intake of milk products, as the USDA recommends, obviously isn’t the answer. This is because the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis tend to have the highest rates of dairy consumption. What’s far better is to focus on a keto diet low in toxins, which interfere with absorption, and is rich in all micronutrients rather than overloaded on a specific macronutrient (calcium).

Inflammation: For many people, aging includes more pain from injuries that happened at a younger age or joint issues like arthritis. Being in ketosis can help reduce the production of substances called cytokines that promote inflammation, which can help with these types of conditions.

Nutrient deficiencies: Older adults tend to have higher deficiencies in important nutrients like:

  • Iron: deficiency can lead to brain fog and fatigue
  • Vitamin B12: deficiency can lead to neurological conditions like dementia
  • Fats: deficiency can lead to problems with cognition, skin, vision, and vitamin deficiencies
  • Vitamin D: deficiency cause cognitive impairment in older adults, increase the risk of heart disease, and even contribute to cancer risk

The high-quality sources of animal protein on the ketogenic diet can easily account for excellent sources of these important nutrients.

Controlling Blood Sugar

As we’ve discussed, there is a connection between poor blood sugar and brain-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s Disease. Some factors that might contribute to Alzheimer’s disease include [1]:

  • An excess intake of carbohydrates, especially from fructose—which is drastically reduced in the ketogenic diet
  • A lack of dietary fats and cholesterol—which are abundant and healthy on the ketogenic diet
  • Oxidative stress, which being in ketosis protects against [2]

Using a ketogenic diet to help control blood sugar and improve nutrition may help not only improve insulin response but also protect against memory problems that often come about with age.

Importance of Keto for Aging

Keto foods deliver a high amount of nutrition per calorie. This is important because basal metabolic rate (the amount of calories needed daily to survive) is less for seniors, but they still need the same amount of nutrients as younger people.

A person age 65+ will have a much harder time living on junk foods than a teen or 20-something whose body is still resilient. This makes it even more crucial for seniors to eat foods that are health-supporting and disease-fighting. It can literally mean the difference between enjoying the golden years to the fullest or spending them in pain and agony.

Therefore, seniors need to eat a more optimal diet by avoiding “empty calories” from sugars or foods rich in anti-nutrients, such as whole grains, and increasing their amount of nutrient-rich fats and proteins.

In addition, much of the food chosen by older people (or given in hospital or clinical settings) tends to be heavily processed and very poor in nutrients, such as white breads, pastas, prunes, mashed potatoes, puddings, etc.

It’s pretty clear that the high-carb diet so widely pushed by the government is not best for supporting our senior citizens and their long-term health. A diet low in carbohydrates and rich in animal and plant fats is far better for promoting better insulin sensitivity, less instances of cognitive decline, and overall better health.

In a Keto Talk podcast with Jimmy Moore, Dr. Adam Nally talks about how he has many elderly patients doing very well on a keto diet. Based on the information discussed above, this makes a lot of sense.

Ketosis for Longevity

No matter our age, it’s never a bad idea to improve your chances of feeling and functioning well for the rest of your life. It’s never too late to start doing better, even though the sooner we start, the better our chances of avoiding disease. Even for those who have spent many years not treating their bodies as well as they should, ketosis for seniors has potential to repair some of the damage.

That being said, as we talk about in our ketosis for longevity article, the earlier we can begin making changes that support healthy weight, blood sugar, immunity, and more, the greater chance of having less pain and suffering later in life.

Take Home Message

Bottom line, we’re all getting older and death is, of course, inevitable. But what we CAN control to a degree is the quality of life along the way. People are now living longer, but we’re also getting sicker by following the standard diet of the majority. The ketogenic diet can help seniors improve their health, so they can actually thrive, rather than be sick or in pain during the later years of life.

Sources:

[1] Seneff S, et al, “Nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease: The detrimental role of a high carbohydrate diet.” Eur J Intern Med (2011), doi:10.1016/j.ejim.2010.12.017

[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121206142025.htm

Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.

Over the last few years, he has treated thousands of patients with movement rehab, internal diagnostics, and natural interventions, including NFL, MLB and NBA champions. After growing his sports rehab and functional medicine clinics to six locations in San Francisco, he shifted his mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.

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Responses (17)

  1. thank you for this information it has been very helpful also. can you go back and fourth between a low carb diet and a high protect in diet and how much time should you give inbetween

  2. Been on keto for 3 months and now have issues w eggs and some dairy, gut issues (taking enzymes and probiotics now) and only lost 12 lbs, in 2 weeks when I did intermittent fasting and bulletproof coffee but stalled again for past two months and not sure what to do. I’m 60 and cannot get the calories nor protein in so I’m at about 800 calories a day w two meals. I’m ramping up frequency of exercise but not sure WHAT ELSE TO DO? Is my metabolism that slow due to age and a few traumas ( such as spinal surgeries?) The macros set by these programs seem unrealistic when for the first time in my.life I don’t want food! Help.

  3. Hi Lisa, it is very common to hit a stall after such a drastic drop in weight and there could be many different reasons for this – increased stress, not enough calories, lack of sleep, etc. You may need to address these one at a time and see how your body responds.

  4. The military taught me that 3 hours of sleep with one or two 20 minutes naps have kept me going from 18 years old to now 67 years old. I have been watching what I eat for the last twenty years and kept my 22 years old weight. 2 years ago, I lost my retirement, and that stress has put on 25 pounds I cannot take off. I am on full KETO regimen for the last two years and nothing has gone down. I take supplements, 2x Alacer Emergen C, 10 000 D3, 200 mg Ubiquinol, 2 ounces of Kefir to swallow the pills down, 2 ounces of Whole milk Greek yogurt with 2 ounces of Blueberries, and 16 ounces of Bulletproof coffee, with 1 Tbsp of Kerry butter and 1 1/2 Tbsp of ultra pure coconut oil. For breakfast. lunch is 2 ounces of grass-fed beef with 2 ounces of spinach and 2 ounces of multi color peppers with one teaspoon of coconut oil and two ounces of shredded cheese to top it all. Turmeric, cumin and basil, with fresh ground pepper for taste. At night, 5 thin slices of ham, 2 big slices of swiss cheese as bun, a fresh salad of spinach.
    My only sin is my chocolate, or my macaroons. 2 ounces of chocolate, ( darkest unsweetened, and 2 macaroons only).

  5. I’m 78 years old male. Lost 35 lbs on keto in 5 months while basically sedentary. Now 179 lbs, same as age 21. Still on it for 4 more months and maintaining. Supplemented with acacia fiber, magnesium, Vitamins D, B Complex, probiotics and alpha lipoic acid per Drs. Perlmutter, William Davis and Mercola. Lipids now all normal. I sleep better and deeper, joint pains gone, have much more energy and mental focus. Eat frozen berries for my daily carbs, along with salad and green veggies (brussels and broccoli). I use olive oil instead of coconut oil to maintain fat macro. I feed sugar jones with sugar free jello and small amounts of sugar free dark chocolate. Waist went from 41 to 35, no more belly fat. The list of plusses goes on.

  6. Ketogenic diet is the best thing that I have ever done. I started at 71 years old, have lost 55lbs (without exercise, just some walking), off stomach and cholesterol meds, and feel great. It’s rather expensive to change over on a fixed income, but well worth it. I’m never hungry so it’s easy to stay on Keto. I hate calling it a diet, because that would mean a temporary change and this is a life style change. I encourage people of all ages to try this way of eating and see how much better they feel.

  7. I have found that that taking an added 1200 mg. of potassium a day keeps me feeling very good.

  8. Thank You Linda, I’m 71 also and started the Keto Diet yesterday. I appreciate hearing it works for you!!

  9. I am 71 year old female , diabetic, take metformin and have just started ketogenic diet. I have lost no weight and feel fatigued. I find it very hard to get adequate protein in. , but could easily overdo fats. I want to start an exercise program but not sure on what to do. Also would like tips on how to get adequate protein without overdoing the fats

  10. Carole Noyes, give yourself time to adapt. In any diet change I’ve found a brief period (about 3 to 5 days) where I feel like crap, almost flu-like symptoms, while my body adjusts. As for exercise, I would suggest waiting a while until you FEEL like moving your body around. And start slowly like a 15 minute walk a day, gradually increasing the time, speed, and distance as stamina builds. Have patience. You didn’t get this way in a day and reversing it will take a bit of time, too. Don’t give up!

  11. I am 62 and was about to give up and accept my reality of being an obese ex career grandmother with a pretty face, when my daughter talks to me about Keto. I started June 6 and have lost 12 lbs by 6/30. I monitor my macros 10%C/25%P/65%F with MFP app. It takes patience and staying on top of nutrient levels i.e. when I began experiencing dizziness and tingling in my arm I checked and saw my potassium level was too low. My energy has returned and brain fog is gone! I laugh and engage more in family gatherings. Classy, sassy is coming back lol. Keto works for mature adults as long as we are intentional, responsible and patient. Best and blessings to all.

  12. I am 60. My husband has done very well on me to. I, however, have bad leg cramping and have lost muscle which I fear I will not get back. I am unsure of what to do. I like the idea of no sugars and flours.

  13. Rosalinda Mercado, Fantastic results! Are you counting total carbs or net carbs? I start tracking on 6/16/18 LoseIt [67/M/5’8″] SW:224//CW:202//GW:165 my current macros 28%P/64%F/8%C. How did you check your potassium level? Many blessing for continuing health.

  14. I am a 72 year old male. 35 lbs overweight. Just starting Keto diet with 2 800mg pills taken 2x day with meal.
    My concern is I am on warfarin (blood thinner) and blood pressure medication as I have a stent in my heart following a heart attack 7 years ago. No issues since with my meds, but wondering if the Keto diet will have a negative affect on my heart/clotting concerns.
    I do have my INR blood work checked every 30 days at the Veterans Admin Clinic.
    Everyone says, just exercise and get on a healthier diet, but that has never worked long term for me. So I’m ready for this.
    Any advice from someone with similar concerns or experience is appreciated.

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