Could a low-carb diet help you stay flu-free? How Atkins-style regimes appear to stimulate the immune system
- Scientists have found an Atkins-style diet could help keep the flu at bay
- A diet low in carbohydrates but high in fat appears to stimulate immune system
- A study compared two groups of mice on different diets exposed to flu strain
It has been credited with helping people shed the pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
And now scientists have found that an Atkins-style diet could have an added benefit in winter – by keeping the flu at bay.
Sticking to a diet low in carbohydrates but high in fat appears to stimulate the immune system, helping ward off the viral infection.
The intriguing discovery comes from a study in which two groups of mice were put on different diets and then exposed to a virulent strain of flu.
Sticking to a diet low in carbohydrates but high in fat appears to stimulate the immune system, helping ward off the viral infection (stock image)
First, seven mice were kept for a week on a ‘standard’ diet high in carbohydrates, before being given doses of ‘A’-strain flu. They all started showing symptoms of the illness within four days.
At the same time, ten others were fed low-carb, high-fat food – known as a ‘ketogenic’ diet.
Their intake comprised 90 per cent fat, nine per cent protein and just one per cent carbohydrates – after which, only half succumbed to the virus.
The startling results from researchers at Yale School of Medicine in the US were published in the journal Science Immunology.
Mice and humans share many similarities in relation to their immune systems, although results found in the rodents do not always translate (stock image)
Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunobiology at Yale, and her colleagues found the mice on the low-carb diet had more of a particular kind of white blood cells in their lungs.
Called Gamma delta T-cells, they ‘improve barrier function in the lungs’ and so provide protection against flu, they wrote.
And the team concluded: ‘Harnessing the beneficial effects of a ketogenic diet through Gamma delta Tcells may offer a potential previously unrecognised avenue for influenza disease prevention and treatment.’
Mice and humans share many similarities in relation to their immune systems, although results found in the rodents do not always translate.
The study also used a type of flu strain that does not cause illness in humans, so further research would be required before any firmer conclusions can be drawn.