Researchers found that Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) model rats fed a ketogenic diet containing medium-chain triglycerides (MCT-KD) presented with attenuated pathological manifestations. The study was published in The FASEB Journal.

The study authors stated, “We found that the MCT-KD led to increased blood ketone levels, improved muscle function, and improved pathology and the characteristic parameters of necrosis, inflammation, and fibrosis in a rat model of DMD.”

The MCT-KD increased muscle strength and fiber diameter compared to a normal diet. Grip strength increased by 21.4%, and relative tibialis anterior muscle weight to body weight increased by 16.2%.

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In addition, the MCT-KD suppressed muscle necrosis, inflammatory cell infiltration, and fibrosis in DMD rats. Detailed analyses showed that it restrained the increase in immunoglobulin G (IgG), suppressed albumin uptake, diminished serum creatine kinase activity, decreased messenger RNA levels of transforming growth factor beta-1, reduced the number of CD11b-positive cells, and increased the ratio of Foxp3+ CD25+ cells to CD4+ CD11bcells.

The study authors also found that the MCT-KD promoted the proliferation of Pax7- and MyoD-positive satellite stem cells. Moreover, it upregulated the expression of fibroblast growth factor 2.

These findings support the potential use of the MCT-KD as a dietary approach to prevent and treat DMD due to its roles in suppressing myonecrosis, promoting the proliferation of muscle stem cells, and inhibiting DMD progression.

Fujikura et al evaluated the differences between DMD rats fed an MCT-KD and those fed a normal diet. Since a ketogenic diet is known to reduce appetite and food intake in rodent models, they pair-fed the normal diet group based on daily caloric intake. They did not find any significant differences in body weight between the groups.


Fujikura Y, Sugihara H, Hatakeyama M, Oishi K, Yamanouchi K. Ketogenic diet with medium‐chain triglycerides restores skeletal muscle function and pathology in a rat model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. FASEB J. 2021;35(9):e21861. doi:10.1096/fj.202100629R