This has been a year of illness, with the flu hitting people hard and now with the coronavirus scare coming out of China. One potential strategy for fighting the flu might be adopting a keto diet, says one study published in Science Immunology.
As you can imagine, your immune system is influenced by a number of different extrinsic factors. These factors include the weather—there’s a reason why you hear more about the flu and other diseases during the winter—as well as social interactions. Diet is another factor that can either help or hinder your immune system. In the study reported in Science Immunology, Goldberg et al. looked at mice that were fed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet to ascertain the effect on the immune system when exposed to a lethal influenza infection. What they found was that the diet helped to expand a type of T cells in the lung. The authors of the study were able to show the importance of these cells in improving barrier function in the lungs. This improved function in turn helped to enhance antiviral resistance. What was discovered was that a ketogenic diet supported this expansion. Interestingly, it wasn’t the diet itself that had the benefit. Neither high-fat, low-carbohydrate nor even chemical ketone body introduction had the effect. Rather it was the metabolic adaptation brought on by the ketogenic diet that improved the function. “Therefore, KD-mediated immune-metabolic integration represents a viable avenue toward preventing or alleviating influenza disease,” concludes the study. Co-senior author Vishna Dep Dixit said, “This study shows that the way the body burns fat to produce ketone bodies from the food we eat can fuel the immune system to fight flu infection.”
More studies are needed in order to confirm this possible treatment, but this is just one more piece of evidence pointing to the benefits of adopting the keto diet as a lifestyle.