Effects of a ketogenic diet on adipose tissue, liver, and serum biomarkers in sedentary rats and rats that exercised via resisted voluntary wheel running

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2016 Aug 1;311(2):R337-51. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00156.2016. Epub 2016 Jun 29.


We investigated the effects of different diets on adipose tissue, liver, serum morphology, and biomarkers in rats that voluntarily exercised. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (∼9-10 wk of age) exercised with resistance-loaded voluntary running wheels (EX; wheels loaded with 20-60% body mass) or remained sedentary (SED) over 6 wk. EX and SED rats were provided isocaloric amounts of either a ketogenic diet (KD; 20.2%-10.3%-69.5% protein-carbohydrate-fat), a Western diet (WD; 15.2%-42.7-42.0%), or standard chow (SC; 24.0%-58.0%-18.0%); n = 8-10 in each diet for SED and EX rats. Following the intervention, body mass and feed efficiency were lowest in KD rats, independent of exercise (P < 0.05). Absolute and relative (body mass-adjusted) omental adipose tissue (OMAT) masses were greatest in WD rats (P < 0.05), and OMAT adipocyte diameters were lowest in KD-fed rats (P < 0.05). None of the assayed OMAT or subcutaneous (SQ) protein markers were affected by the diets [total acetyl coA carboxylase (ACC), CD36, and CEBPα or phosphorylated NF-κB/p65, AMPKα, and hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL)], although EX unexpectedly altered some OMAT markers (i.e., higher ACC and phosphorylated NF-κB/p65, and lower phosphorylated AMPKα and phosphorylated HSL). Liver triglycerides were greatest in WD rats (P < 0.05), and liver phosphorylated NF-κB/p65 was lowest in KD rats (P < 0.05). Serum insulin, glucose, triglycerides, and total cholesterol were greater in WD and/or SC rats compared with KD rats (P < 0.05), and serum β-hydroxybutyrate was greater in KD vs. SC rats (P < 0.05). In conclusion, KD rats presented a healthier metabolic profile, albeit the employed exercise protocol minimally impacts any potentiating effects that KD has on fat loss.

Keywords: adipose tissue; exercise; insulin; ketogenic diet; liver.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Diet, Ketogenic*
  • Diet, Western
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Liver / physiology*
  • Male
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Resistance Training*
  • Rest
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Volition


  • Biomarkers