A Short-Term Ketogenic Diet Impairs Markers of Bone Health in Response to Exercise

Ida A. Heikura, Louise M. Burke, John A. Hawley, Megan L. Ross, Laura Garvican-Lewis, Avish P. Sharma, Alannah K. A. McKay, Jill J. Leckey, Marijke Welvaert, Lauren McCall, Kathryn E. Ackerman

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    Objectives: To investigate diet-exercise interactions related to bone markers in elite endurance athletes after a 3.5-week ketogenic low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet and subsequent restoration of carbohydrate (CHO) feeding. Methods: World-class race walkers (25 male, 5 female) completed 3.5-weeks of energy-matched (220 kJ·kg·d −1) high CHO (HCHO; 8.6 g·kg·d −1 CHO, 2.1 g·kg·d −1 protein, 1.2 g·kg·d −1 fat) or LCHF (0.5 g·kg·d −1 CHO, 2.1 g·kg·d −1 protein, 75–80% of energy from fat) diet followed by acute CHO restoration. Serum markers of bone breakdown (cross-linked C-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen, CTX), formation (procollagen 1 N-terminal propeptide, P1NP) and metabolism (osteocalcin, OC) were assessed at rest (fasting and 2 h post meal) and after exercise (0 and 3 h) at Baseline, after the 3.5-week intervention (Adaptation) and after acute CHO feeding (Restoration). Results: After Adaptation, LCHF increased fasting CTX concentrations above Baseline (p = 0.007, Cohen's d = 0.69), while P1NP (p < 0.001, d = 0.99) and OC (p < 0.001, d = 1.39) levels decreased. Post-exercise, LCHF increased CTX concentrations above Baseline (p = 0.001, d = 1.67) and above HCHO (p < 0.001, d = 0.62), while P1NP (p < 0.001, d = 0.85) and OC concentrations decreased (p < 0.001, d = 0.99) during exercise. Exercise-related area under curve (AUC) for CTX was increased by LCHF after Adaptation (p = 0.001, d = 1.52), with decreases in P1NP (p < 0.001, d = 1.27) and OC (p < 0.001, d = 2.0). CHO restoration recovered post-exercise CTX and CTX exercise-related AUC, while concentrations and exercise-related AUC for P1NP and OC remained suppressed for LCHF (p = 1.000 compared to Adaptation). Conclusion: Markers of bone modeling/remodeling were impaired after short-term LCHF diet, and only a marker of resorption recovered after acute CHO restoration. Long-term studies of the effects of LCHF on bone health are warranted.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number880
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2020


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