Kynurenic Acid and Neuroprotective Activity of the Ketogenic Diet in the Eye

Curr Med Chem. 2017;24(32):3547-3558. doi: 10.2174/0929867324666170509120257.


Background: There is growing evidence of the involvement of the kynurenine metabolic pathway and the enhancement of kynurenic acid production in the neuroprotective effects of the ketogenic diet.

Objective: Here, we review evidence implicating kynurenic acid in the efficacy of ketogenic diet in eye diseases associated with neurodegeneration.

Findings: Ketogenic diet and ketone bodies that are elevated during exposure to the ketogenic diet each have a neuroprotective effect on retinal ganglion cells in a rat model of Nmethyl- D-aspartate induced neuronal damage. Chronic exposure to ketogenic diet also increases kynurenic acid concentrations in discrete rat brain structures. A non-selective glutamate receptor agonist, glutamate, also decreases the production of kynurenic acid in bovine retinal slices; this effect is attenuated by acetoacetate and β-hydroxybutyrate, two of three ketone bodies overproduced during ketogenic diet.

Perspective: Whether ketogenic diet induced enhancement of kynurenic acid production would translate into a clinically significant improvement in certain eye diseases like glaucoma and retinal neurodegenerations awaits further experimental and clinical verification.

Keywords: Eye; ketogenic diet; kynurenic acid; kynurenine; neuroprotection; retina.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Diet, Ketogenic* / methods
  • Eye / metabolism
  • Eye Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Eye Diseases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ketone Bodies / metabolism
  • Kynurenic Acid / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neuroprotective Agents / metabolism*


  • Ketone Bodies
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Kynurenic Acid