Despite transient ketosis, the classic high-fat ketogenic diet induces marked changes in fatty acid metabolism in rats

Metabolism. 2005 Sep;54(9):1127-32. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2005.03.018.


In contrast to humans, rats on a high-fat ketogenic diet seem incapable of maintaining plasma beta-hydroxybutyrate above 1 mmol/L for more than a week. Our goal was to determine whether fatty acid metabolism in rats changes despite the absence of sustained ketosis induced by the ketogenic diet. Fatty acid metabolism was assessed as changes in tissue fatty acid profiles and change in 13C-alpha-linolenic acid incorporation into plasma, liver, adipose tissue, and brain lipids. Despite loss of ketosis, the ketogenic diet reduced some polyunsaturated fatty acids in adipose tissue (up to 44%) and plasma (up to 90%) but raised polyunsaturates in liver triglycerides by up to 25-fold and raised arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids in the brain by 15%. Lower tissue incorporation of 13C-alpha-linolenic acid but higher unlabeled and 13C-labeled docosahexaenoic acid in brain supports the view that the principal changes in fatty acid composition resulted from enhanced mobilization of polyunsaturates from adipose tissue to liver and brain. In the absence of sustained ketosis, changes in fatty acid metabolism resulting in an increase in brain polyunsaturates, particularly docosahexaenoic acid may, nevertheless, contribute to the seizure protection by the ketogenic diet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acid / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Epilepsy / diet therapy
  • Epilepsy / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacokinetics*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacokinetics
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / pharmacokinetics
  • Ketosis / metabolism*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / blood
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / pharmacokinetics


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid