A Ketogenic Diet Increases Succinic Dehydrogenase (SDH) Activity and Recovers Age-Related Decrease in Numeric Density of SDH-positive Mitochondria in Cerebellar Purkinje Cells of Late-Adult Rats

Micron. 2010 Feb;41(2):143-8. doi: 10.1016/j.micron.2009.08.010. Epub 2009 Oct 8.


Ketogenic diets (KDs) have been applied in the therapy of paediatric epilepsy for nearly a century. Recently, beneficial results have also been reported on metabolic disorders and neurodegeneration, designating aged individuals as possible recipients. However, KDs efficacy decrease after the suckling period, and very little is known about their impact on the aging brain. In the present study, the effect on the neuronal energetic supply of a KD containing 20% of medium chain triglycerides (MCT) was investigated in Purkinje cells of the cerebellar vermis of late-adult (19-month-old) rats. The animals were fed with the KD for 8 weeks, and succinic dehydrogenase (SDH) activity was cytochemically determined. The following parameters of SDH-positive mitochondria were evaluated by the use of a computer-assisted image analysis system connected to a transmission electron microscope: numeric density (Nv), average volume (V), volume density (Vv), and cytochemical precipitate area/mitochondrial area (R). Young, age-matched, and old animals fed with a standard chow were used as controls. We found significantly higher Nv in MCT-KD-fed rats vs. all the control groups, in young vs. late-adult and old controls, and in late-adult vs. old controls. V and Vv showed no significant differences among the groups. R was significantly higher in MCT-KD-fed rats vs. all the control animals, and in old vs. young and late-adult controls. Present data indicate that the ketogenic treatment counteracted age-related decrease in numeric density of SDH-positive mitochondria, and enhanced their metabolic efficiency. Given the central role of mitochondrial impairment in age-related physio-pathological changes of the brain, these findings may represent a starting point to examine novel potentialities for KDs.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Diet, Ketogenic*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Purkinje Cells / enzymology*
  • Purkinje Cells / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / metabolism*


  • Succinate Dehydrogenase