Can Keto Diet Fight the Flu?

Keto Diet Fight Flu

The keto diet is popular for its weight loss benefits, and new research suggests that it may also help fight the flu.

“We found that mice on a ketogenic diet were protected because they were better able to fortify the airway barrier. This required a specific type of lymphocyte called gamma delta T cells,” said Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, principal investigator at the Iwasaki Lab at the Yale School of Medicine, Waldemar Von Zedwitz professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, professor of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology, investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and co-author of the study. ” The keto diet expanded γ-δ T cells, which changed airway epithelial cells to secrete more mucus, which could trap the virus and protect the host from further transmission.”

How Keto May Affect the Flu Virus

In the latest study, Dr. Akiko Iwasaki and her collaborators observed that the ketogenic diet blocked the formation of inflammasomes, which are immune system activators that can cause harmful immune system responses. Seeing this response, the scientists set out to test how the diet might affect the flu virus.

Immune responses are key to fighting infection, and in this project, mice in the study group were fed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, while mice in the control group were fed a high-carbohydrate diet. Mice in the ketogenic group were found to have expansion of gamma delta T cells in the lungs, which improved barrier function against influenza.

In other words, the ketogenic diet was believed to activate certain immune cells that were previously unrelated to the immune response to influenza, the team said. This response led to increased mucus secretion in the respiratory tract, which can help capture the influenza virus. In addition, the team found that the ketogenic diet offered no protection against influenza A when mice were reproduced in the absence of gamma delta T-cell-encoding.

So far, these studies have only been conducted in mice, and more research is needed to see if similar pathways will be activated in humans, Iwasaki said. There have also been criticisms of the ketogenic diet because of the risks it includes, and it has historically been used as a medical diet under the supervision of doctors. Iwasaki said there are no plans to make any clinical recommendations regarding the team’s findings.

“We first need to know if people on a ketogenic diet have similar changes in their lungs,” she said.” Without such data, it’s impossible to recommend any changes in clinical practice.”

Flu Vaccine Remains the Best Protection

Although Jan Rystrom,MD, a certified diabetes educator at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, suggests that the Yale study supports the anti-inflammatory effect of nutritional ketosis, she adds that a keto diet “certainly would not be a first line treatment [for flu].”

William Schaffner, MD, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, has not seen significant data connecting diet with flu protection.

“This is a very interesting study,” Dr. Schaffner said.” If we can learn more about how the body fights the flu, we can be smarter about how to treat it and maybe prevent it.”

He notes that there is some evidence that obesity may lead to a weaker response to the flu vaccine, so this could be an indication of how diet affects protection against the flu.

However, studies in humans are needed to verify that a keto diet can be effective in protecting against influenza.

“People are not the same as mice. Between 30,000 and 40,000 people die from the flu in the United States every year,” says Dr. Len Horowitz, MD, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. ” There is no better alternative to protection than a flu shot!”

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