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Keto diet could help trap flu virus before it spreads, Yale study finds

The keto diet, often hailed as an effective way of helping patients with diabetes type 2 manage their condition, could also be a useful ally in preventing flu, a new study has ‘unexpectedly’ found.

The Keto diet, which involves eating minimal carbs and high-fat foods, could also help prevent flu, according to research by Yale

In research conducted by trainees and a lead scientist at Yale University, a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet was found to release immune system cells that produce mucus in the cell linings of the lung – stopping the flu virus in its tracks.

During the research, scientists fed mice who had influenza the keto diet – lots of high-fat food with a small amount of carbohydrates – and found they had a higher survival rate than animals on a standard high-carb diet.

UK GP Dr David Unwin speaking about the successes his practice has had with patients following a low-carb diet

The regime, say experts, triggered a subset of T cells not ordinarily released by the immune system in response to flu. The increased mucus production from airway cells meant the virus found it harder to travel.

After four days, all seven of the mice that were fed a standard diet succumbed to the infection, compared to only five out of the 10 mice on the keto diet.

The results of the study were ‘totally unexpected’, said co-author Akiko Iwasaki of Yale University.

Speaking to the New Scientist, John Tregoning of Imperial College London said of the study: “We already knew of a link between diet and immunity. Eating foods rich in vitamin C, for example, is known to strengthen our immune system. Switching to a keto diet may help boost the immune system so that it is better programmed to fight off the infection.”

WHAT IS THE KETO DIET?

Comparable to the Atkins diet by many, the Keto diet involves following a low-carb, high-fat diet that puts the body into the metabolic state known as ketosis, which burns fat as the body’s primary energy source when there aren’t enough carbs. 

WHAT CAN YOU EAT ON A KETO DIET?

  • Red and white meat
  • White and oily fish including salmon and mackarel
  • Lots of green vegetables and fruits including berries
  • Full-fat dairy including cheese, butter and milk
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dark chocolate
  • Fats including olive and coconut oil

Yale University