A Yale University study published in Science Immunology found the high-fat, low-carb eating strategy activates a subset of cells in the lungs that enhance mucus production that can trap the influenza virus. The mucus keeps the virus from affecting the lungs, according to the study.
Don’t ditch carbs just yet, though. The study was done on mice and a statement from Yale University did not indicate that there’s any plans to replicate the experiment on humans.
Still, the findings did provide scientists with a better understanding of how the body fights the flu. Specifically, they found the body’s gamma delta T cells, which have distinctive receptors used to help assist the immune system, are essential in keeping both mice and humans healthy.
Mice who were bred without gamma delta T cells did not see any benefits from the keto diet, according to the study. Mice with the cells had a higher survival rate when exposed to the flu than those fed a high-carb diet.
“This was a totally unexpected finding,” said the study’s co-senior author Akiko Iwasaki, the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.