It’s likely you’ll see a lot of misinformation when it comes to COVID-19, from conspiracy theorists blaming coronavirus on 5G to QAnon followers claiming you can cure yourself by drinking bleach.
Another one of these false statements sweeping the internet is the idea that you can prevent yourself from becoming infected with coronavirus by following a ketogenic diet.
From sites arguing (with very little basis) that ‘the keto diet can help fight the flu and may be the key to combating the coronavirus’ to tweets suggesting much the same.
The general consensus among those promoting the ketogenic diet – which is centred around low-carb, high-fat foods – is that it’ll boost your immune system to the point where you’ll be immune to coronavirus (or not vulnerable if you do contract it)
Dr Grace Farhat, a lecturer in food science and nutrition at Liverpool Hope University, however, wants to debunk this myth.
Dr Farhat, registered with the UK Association for Nutrition, says a keto diet will not protect you.
She said: ‘There are certain claims being made that adopting a keto diet could help to boost your immune system, and therefore stop you being infected with coronavirus.
‘But I can say with confidence that there is no scientific evidence to show that ketosis can help ward off viruses – particularly coronavirus – in humans.
‘As ever, you should always be discerning about any medical claims made on social media.’
The keto diet has won armies of admirers in recent years, having been originally conceived in the 1920s as a means of controlling paediatric epilepsy.
The idea behind the diet is that by reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat, you put your body into a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’.
During ketosis, your body uses fat reserves, rather than carbs, as an energy source and which helps you to lose weight.
A study by scientists at Yale School of Medicine, USA, and released in November last year also suggested that a ketogenic diet might provide a degree of protection from the flu.
Lead author Akiko Iwasaki found ketosis in mice boosted certain immune cells and the production of protective mucus in the lungs.
And the study concluded that the method may, ‘represent a viable avenue toward preventing or alleviating influenza disease.’
It’s often this piece of research that keto fans are quoting when making claims about coronavirus protection.
But Grace says there’s a big difference between mice and humans – and she’d be concerned about large numbers of people jumping on the keto bandwagon just because of this.
Ketosis produces acidic substances called ‘ketones’ – and too much in the bloodstream can actually damage the liver and kidneys.
Dr Farhat explains: ‘This is a study done in mice – and although it shows promising results, unless we prove it in humans, we can’t make any bold claims about the way the diet might affect us.
‘Humans and mice are two different creatures. We have different immune systems.
‘Yes, there are some benefits of the ketogenic diet, particularly in terms of inducing satiety and helping to reduce weight, and it works well for some people.
‘In the short term, there shouldn’t be any risks. But the problem is that it’s not a long term solution. It cannot be part of your long term eating habits.
‘A diet that’s as close as possible to a ‘normal’ diet – one that’s balanced and nutritious – is much more recommended in terms of your overall health.
‘The keto diet could overload the kidneys due to an excess of protein, and there’s also the risk of liver problems.
‘What’s also important is that a keto diet deprives the body of carbohydrate, which is needed for daily energy.’
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