Effects of a ketogenic diet during pregnancy on embryonic growth in the mouse

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2013 May 8:13:109. doi: 10.1186/1471-2393-13-109.


Background: The increasing use of the ketogenic diet (KD), particularly by women of child-bearing age, raises a question about its suitability during gestation. To date, no studies have thoroughly investigated the direct implications of a gestational ketogenic diet on embryonic development.

Methods: To fill this knowledge gap we imaged CD-1 mouse embryos whose mothers were fed either a Standard Diet (SD) or a KD 30 days prior to, as well as during gestation. Images were collected at embryonic days (E) 13.5 using Optical Projection Tomography (OPT) and at E17.5 using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Results: An anatomical comparison of the SD and KD embryos revealed that at E13.5 the average KD embryo was volumetrically larger, possessed a relatively larger heart but smaller brain, and had a smaller pharynx, cervical spinal cord, hypothalamus, midbrain, and pons, compared with the average SD embryo. At E17.5 the KD embryo was found to be volumetrically smaller with a relatively smaller heart and thymus, but with enlarged cervical spine, thalamus, midbrain and pons.

Conclusion: A ketogenic diet during gestation results in alterations in embryonic organ growth. Such alterations may be associated with organ dysfunction and potentially behavioral changes in postnatal life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Brain / embryology
  • Diet, Ketogenic* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fetal Development*
  • Heart / embryology
  • Ketones / blood
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Pharynx / embryology
  • Pregnancy
  • Spinal Cord / embryology
  • Thymus Gland / embryology
  • Tomography, Optical


  • Blood Glucose
  • Ketones