Study Reveals Distinct Immune Responses to Vegan and Keto Diets

by Ella

A recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sheds light on the unique immune system reactions triggered by vegan and ketogenic diets. The research, published in Nature Medicine, involved 20 participants who alternated between these diets over a two-week period, allowing scientists to observe changes in innate and adaptive immunity, metabolic pathways, and the gut microbiome.

The vegan diet primarily impacted innate immunity and pathways related to red blood cells, while the ketogenic (keto) diet influenced adaptive immunity and a broader spectrum of proteins. These findings underscore the rapid and diverse immune responses to dietary changes, providing insights into potential diet-based strategies for disease prevention and treatment.


Key Highlights:

Immune System Responses: The vegan diet prompted innate immune responses and affected red blood cell pathways, while the keto diet influenced adaptive immunity and a wider range of protein levels.


Microbiome and Metabolic Changes: Both diets significantly altered participants’ microbiomes and metabolic processes, emphasizing the profound impact of dietary choices on complex bodily systems.


Controlled Environment and Diverse Participants: The study’s controlled setting and diverse participant group demonstrated that dietary changes consistently affect intricate bodily systems.


The study, carried out by researchers from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), involved a diverse group of 20 participants in a random order, consuming vegan and keto diets for two weeks each.

While the vegan diet contained approximately 10% fat and 75% carbohydrates, the keto diet consisted of about 76% fat and 10% carbohydrates. Both diets led to notable changes in participants’ microbiomes and metabolic pathways.

The vegan diet primarily influenced innate immune responses linked to antiviral defenses, while the keto diet resulted in increased pathways associated with adaptive immunity, including T and B cells. Moreover, the keto diet affected a broader range of proteins in the blood plasma compared to the vegan diet.

The study’s comprehensive approach, analyzing multiple datasets, revealed the interconnected impact of diet on biochemical, cellular, metabolic, and immune responses, as well as changes to the microbiome.

While acknowledging the observational nature of the study, researchers suggest that these rapid immune responses to nutritional interventions could pave the way for tailored diets aimed at preventing or complementing disease treatments. The study highlights the need for further research into the specific components of the immune system affected by nutritional interventions.



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