No, The Keto Diet Won’t Give You Special Protection From COVID-19

The ways to protect yourself from contracting the coronavirus are simple and boring: wash your hands, avoid contact with people who might be sick … you know the drill. Some advocates of particular diets are saying you also need to eat a certain way, or take supplements, to which our best knowledge is: no.

Here’s a carnivore arguing that the vitamins in meat are essential for the immune system. Here’s an entrepreneur with #KETO in their twitter bio making a somewhat convoluted argument about metabolic syndrome and mortality rates. Somehow, people who were already promoting a certain diet—whichever diet that may have been—have concluded that their favourite diet gives special protection against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, actual doctors and scientists are making no such claims. Let me refer you once again to the World Health Organisation’s instructions on protecting yourself, which include washing your hands and staying away from sick people. Not eating a specific diet.

They do mention, in a document on managing stress, maintaining “proper diet, sleep, exercise, and social contacts.” That matches the other general advice that you’ve probably seen for protecting yourself against colds and seasonal flu every year. Take care of yourself, physically and mentally, because it sure can’t hurt.

This Harvard Health article goes into a bit more depth, if you’d like extra reassurance. It mainly ends up debunking the whole idea of “boosting” your immune system with diet, because you can’t. Eat diet high in fruits and vegetables, they say, and consider a multivitamin if you’re still worried about it. Here’s their summary of the state of research:

Scientists have long recognised that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Whether the increased rate of disease is caused by malnutrition’s effect on the immune system, however, is not certain. There are still relatively few studies of the effects of nutrition on the immune system of humans, and even fewer studies that tie the effects of nutrition directly to the development (versus the treatment) of diseases.

Bottom line, if you eat a particularly bad diet—like if you’re under-eating or if you are routinely missing out on vitamins—it’s possible that could slightly weaken your immune system. This doesn’t mean you need to eat keto or anything else. It only means that if you’ve been getting by on a few cups of ramen a day, you should probably branch out and make sure you’re eating like a normal human being.

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