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Ryan Molony, a trainee in Iwasaki’s lab, and with trainee Emily Goldberg from the lab of co-senior author Vishwa Deep Dixit, came up with the concept for the study following other research in this area.
"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," said Ditix.
The study was conducted using a population of mice that were fed either a version of a keto diet or a high-carb normal diet. They found that more of the mice who were on the keto diet survived the flu than the mice who were fed a more standard diet. The change in diet began only seven days before infection with the flu, so it doesn’t take long for this diet to make a big impact on the body’s immune response.
But how does it work? Researchers discovered that the ketogenic diet activated the production of mucus-producing cells in the lungs. Though previously not linked to the body’s flu response system, the mucus helped to trap the virus, giving those mice a stronger defense against the flu.