Dietary Shifts Prompt Rapid and Distinct Immune System Responses, NIH Study Finds

by Ella

A recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has revealed swift and distinct changes in the immune system of individuals adopting either a vegan or ketogenic (keto) diet. Researchers closely monitored the biological responses of participants who sequentially followed vegan and keto diets for two weeks, discovering that the vegan diet triggered responses associated with innate immunity, while the keto diet prompted responses linked to adaptive immunity.

The study, conducted by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), involved 20 diverse participants who consumed as much as desired of one diet for two weeks, followed by the other diet for an additional two weeks. The vegan diet, consisting of approximately 10% fat and 75% carbohydrates, resulted in participants consuming fewer calories than the keto diet, characterized by about 76% fat and 10% carbohydrates.


Noteworthy metabolic changes and shifts in participants’ microbiomes—bacterial communities in the gut—were observed during the study. While the vegan diet significantly impacted pathways associated with the innate immune system and antiviral responses, the keto diet led to increases in processes related to adaptive immunity, including T and B cells. Additionally, the keto diet affected a broader range of proteins in the blood plasma, spanning tissues such as blood, brain, and bone marrow.


Both diets induced changes in the participants’ microbiomes, influencing the abundance of gut bacterial species linked to the respective diets. The keto diet also resulted in alterations in amino acid metabolism, reflecting the higher protein consumption associated with this dietary pattern.


The study’s findings underscore the rapid and interconnected nature of the body’s responses to dietary changes. Despite the diversity of participants, the distinct metabolic and immune system shifts observed emphasize the consistent impact of dietary interventions. The researchers suggest that these results open avenues for tailoring diets to prevent or complement disease treatments, potentially slowing processes associated with conditions like cancer or neurodegenerative disorders. Further research is needed to delve into the specific effects of these nutritional interventions on various components of the immune system.




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