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According to a new study conducted on animal subjects, scientists believe that ketogenic diets help muscle cells to cope with stress, and that the same is true for humans.

University researchers at Stanford University of Medicine conducted a food study on lab mice and published their findings in the June issue of the journal Cell Metabolism – Health Science.

This study was conducted to investigate the effects of high fat, low carb diets and short-term fasting on muscle regeneration, as there is little research on this topic.

Keto diets are a popular weight loss strategy used by eating high amounts of healthy fats – usually divided into 55% to 60% – eating low amounts of carbohydrates – usually divided into 5% to 10%. This puts the body in a state called “ketosis”, which prioritizes fat as a source of energy and reduces body fat over time.

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“We show that managing endogenously produced ketosis or externally during fasting or ketogenic diet promotes deep immobility in muscle stem cells (MuSCs),” the Stanford researchers wrote.

The popular ketogenic diet (keto diet) is a low carb, high fat diet that keeps your body in ketosis, in the process your body burns fat for fuel rather than carbohydrates.

The popular ketogenic diet (keto diet) is a low carb, high fat diet that keeps your body in ketosis, in the process your body burns fat for fuel rather than carbohydrates.
(iStock)

Fasting, on the other hand, appeared to be slower, “muscle repair immediately after fasting and several days after feeding”, according to the study results.

Lab rats were subjected to fasting periods between one and two and a half days. Mice had a “lower ability” to regenerate new muscle in their hind legs in response to injury compared to the non-fasting control group.

Mice testing subjects had a noticeable “reduction in reproductive capacity” that persisted for up to three days after re-feeding the rats. Their weight returned to normal a week after the end of the fast.

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The muscle cells in these test mice were smaller in size and “more slowly divided” compared to mice that did not interfere with their feeding.

Cells were found to be “more resilient” and “better” when transplanted and grown in a lab dish.

Researchers can examine stem cell activity under a microscope.

Researchers can examine stem cell activity under a microscope.
(iStock)

The researchers tested the stems in “challenging conditions” that included nutrient deficiencies, cell damage chemicals and exposure to radiation.

Most cells have been successfully transplanted into laboratory mice. Non-fasting mice had a lower success rate.

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“Usually, most laboratory-grown muscle stem cells die when transplanted,” said Thomas Rando, a professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University.

“But these cells are in a state of deep relaxation, which we call ketone-induced deep calm, which allows them to withstand a wide variety of stresses,” he continued in a university press release.

Muscle stem cells of fasting and non-fasting mice exhibit “similar elasticity” when treated with beta-hydroxybutyrate – a ketone body, a water-soluble molecule responsible for the ketogenesis that occurs when fatty acids are produced by the liver.

Lab mice are commonly used in health and medical studies because they share genetic, biological, and behavioral similarities to humans.

Lab mice are commonly used in health and medical studies because they share genetic, biological, and behavioral similarities to humans.
(iStock)

Muscle stem cells from older mice were treated with ketone bodies for a week, but their cells “grew more poorly in the laboratory” compared to their younger ones. However, these muscle stem cells were able to survive as well.

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Rando said in a statement that the cells have evolved to tolerate abundance and deficiency, including access to food.

“Ketone bodies are formed when the body uses fat for energy, but they push the cells into a state of inertia that protects them during deprivation,” he said. “In this condition, they are protected from environmental stress, but they can regenerate damaged tissue.”

Stanford University’s news release about the study said the results were intriguing, but that more research was needed.

Muscles are fibrous tissues that have the ability to contract, move, and hold body parts.

Muscles are fibrous tissues that have the ability to contract, move, and hold body parts.
(iStock)

The university said the results of the study could provide evidence of the effect of aging on the body’s ability to regenerate and repair damaged tissue.

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“As we age, our tissues get slower and less complete healing,” Rando said. “We wanted to understand how fasting regulates that reproductive capacity and how it affects this process. We found that fasting stimulates elasticity in muscle cells so that they survive during deprivation and are available to repair muscle when nutrients are available again.”