A ketogenic diet (KD) is composed of low-carbohydrate, high-fat and adequate levels of protein. It has been used for decades as a method to treat pediatric refractory epilepsy. However, recently, its side effects on the bones have received increasing attention. In order to comprehensively evaluate the effect of KD on the microstructures and mechanical properties of the skeleton, 14 male Sprague-Dawley rats were equally divided into two groups and fed with a KD (ratio of fat to carbohydrate and protein, 3:1) or a standard diet for 12 weeks. Body weight, as well as blood ketone and glucose levels, were monitored during the experiment. Bone morphometric analyses via micro-computerized tomography were performed on cortical and trabecular bone at the middle L4 vertebral body, the proximal humerus and tibia. The compressive stiffness and strength of scanned skeletal areas were calculated using micro-finite element analysis. The KD led to higher ketone levels and lower glucose levels, with reduced body weight and total bone mineral density (TBMD). After 12 weeks, the diet reduced the bone volume fraction, the trabecular number of cancellous bone, cortical thickness, total cross-sectional area inside the periosteal envelope and the bone area of cortical bone in the tibia and humerus, while increasing trabecular separation. However, KD may not affect the L4 vertebral body. The serum calcium or phosphate concentrations in the blood remained unchanged. In addition, bone stiffness and strength were clearly decreased by the KD, and significantly correlated with the BMD and bone area at all scanned sites. In conclusion, KD led to significant bone loss and reduced biomechanical function in appendicular bones, with a lesser impact on axial bones.
Keywords: appendicular bones; axial bones; finite element; ketogenic diet; mechanical properties; microstructure.