Switching to vegan, keto diets linked with immune system, gut changes, study finds

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New Delhi: Switching to a vegan diet can prompt responses associated with innate immunity, or the immune system that one is born with, new research has found.

On the other hand, the research also found that switching to a keto diet - high-fat, low-carb - could trigger responses usually linked with adaptive immunity, which is the immune system that one develops with time in response to external infections and vaccinations.

Along with immune system changes, researchers at the National Institutes of Health in the US also detected changes and shifts in the participants' gut microbiome.

However, more research was needed before these immunity and gut changes could be adjudged 'beneficial' or 'detrimental', they said in their study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

It is also not yet known how the findings could impact therapeutic nutritional interventions - which involve changing the diet to improve health - especially in the context of diseases such as cancer or inflammatory conditions, the team said.

For the study, the researchers closely monitored various biological responses of 20 participants for two weeks. They were split into two groups, each randomly assigned a vegan or a keto diet.

The team measured the diets' effects using a "multi-omics" approach, analysing multiple data sets to assess the body's biochemical, cellular, metabolic, and immune responses, along with changes to the microbiome.

Upon analysis of data, they found that the keto diet affected more proteins in the blood and blood plasma, brain and bone marrow than the vegan diet.

They also found that the vegan diet promoted more red blood cell-linked pathways, including those involved in producing haemoglobin, likely due to the iron-rich content of the diet, they said.

The team also observed that people consuming the vegan diet, containing 10 per cent fat and 75 per cent carbohydrates, chose to consume fewer calories than those on the keto diet, which consisted of about 75 per cent fat and 10 per cent carbohydrates.

The researchers said they detected the distinct metabolic and immune system changes arising out of both diets despite the participants' diversity with regards to their ethnicity, race, gender, body mass index (BMI) and age.

The results showed that the immune system responded surprisingly rapidly to nutritional interventions, they said, suggesting that it may be possible to tailor diets for patients in order to prevent disease or complement disease treatments, such as by slowing processes associated with cancer or neurodegenerative disorders.

Therefore, they said, more study is needed to examine how these nutritional interventions impact specific aspects of the immune system.

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