Even though it's controversial these days, the keto diet might be just the flu-busting antidote we need, according to a new study.
The Yale University study found that mice that were fed a keto diet were better at fighting the flu than the ones that were fed foods high in carbs. The research was published a few days ago in the journal Science Immunology.
The keto diet includes food items like red meat and white meat, fish and non-starchy vegetables. And the scientists were surprised to see that it activates a subset of T cells in the lungs, which the scientific community had not associated with the immune system's response to the flu. The next part of the process is enhancing the mucus production from airway cells that can trap the virus, said the scientists.
Keto diet to the rescue
"This was a totally unexpected finding," said co-senior author Akiko Iwasaki, the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. But this discovery, that could help get us through flu season so much easier, was thought up by two trainees, Ryan Molony and Emily Goldberg, working in the laboratories of the two co-senior authors. Molony worked in Iwasaki's lab, while Goldberg worked with co-senior author Visha Deep Dixit.
"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," Dixit said.