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Differential metabolic effects of saturated versus polyunsaturated fats in ketogenic diets

Ketogenic diets (KDs) are used for treatment of refractory epilepsy and metabolic disorders. The classic saturated fatty acid-enriched (SAT) KD has a fat:carbohydrate plus protein ratio of 4:1, in which the predominant fats are saturated. We hypothesized that a polyunsaturated fat-enriched (POLY) KD would induce a similar degree of ketosis with less detrimental effects on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Twenty healthy adults were randomized to two different weight-maintaining KDs for 5 d. Diets were 70% fat, 15% carbohydrate, and 15% protein. The fat contents were 60 or 15% saturated, 15 or 60% polyunsaturated, and 25% monounsaturated for SAT and POLY, respectively. Changes in serum beta-hydroxybutyrate, insulin sensitivity (S(I)), and lipid profiles were measured. Mean circulating beta-hydroxybutyrate levels increased 8.4 mg/dl in the POLY group (P = 0.0004), compared with 3.1 mg/dl in the SAT group (P = 0.07). S(I) increased significantly in the POLY group (P = 0.02), whereas total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol increased significantly in the SAT group (both P = 0.002). These data demonstrate that a short-term POLY KD induces a greater level of ketosis and improves S(I), without adversely affecting total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, compared with a traditional SAT KD. Thus, a POLY KD may be superior to a classical SAT KD for chronic administration.


Fuehrlein, B. S., Rutenberg, M. S., Silver, J. N., Warren, M. W., Theriaque, D. W., Duncan, G. E., ... Brantly, M. L. (2004). Differential metabolic effects of saturated versus polyunsaturated fats in ketogenic diets. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 89(4), 1641-1645. DOI: 10.1210/jc.2003-031796

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