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Eating Keto, Vegan Diets Rewired Immune System Within 2 Weeks

2/14/24 Switching to a ketogenic or vegan diet caused quick changes in people’s immune systems was found in a small crossover study involving 20 people. The results “may have the potential to improve our understanding of diet-based therapeutic options for the prevention and treatment of disease,” the researchers wrote in Nature Medicine


Each diet boosted different branches of the immune system overall, although both diets increased the levels of disease–fighting T and natural killer, or NK, cells. When people ate the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic, or keto diet, they experienced upregulated pathways of the adaptive immune system—the part that responds to and remembers specific pathogens. They also had a more pronounced effect on the composition and function of their microbiomes than when they ate the vegan diet.


Eating the exclusively plant-based vegan diet led to an increase in the processes of the innate immune system—the first line of defense that responds in a nonspecific way to pathogens.


The participants ate as much as they wanted of a keto or vegan diet for 2 weeks, and then switched to the other diet for 2 weeks. The order in which people followed the diets didn’t affect the outcomes, the researchers reported.


The detailed report in Nature Medicine: Differential peripheral immune signatures elicited by vegan vs ketogenic diets in humans can be seen here.


Article Information

Emily Harris

JAMA. Published online February 14, 2024. doi:10.1001/jama.2024.0352

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