Did Keto Survive COVID?
COVID-19 has caused a major shift in virtually every aspect of our daily lives.
Diet is no exception. Keto saw a continuous upward trend in popularity throughout 2019 and into early 2020. But when the pandemic hit, it appears that people gave up carb counting and embraced bread and pasta making.
According to Research and Markets, a global market research firm, flour sales have increased by 238% since the start of COVID, leaving many supermarket shelves stripped bare[*]. It seems that people have turned to homemade breads and pastries in these trying times.
According to Nielsen, alcohol sales are up even more, rising 477% year over year as of April 25th[*].
These shifts may not be too surprising. As Dr. Marcelo Campos, a family physician, puts it, “Food is pleasure, and there’s little pleasure these days.”
It would appear that, in the midst of Coronavirus, people have given up their avoidance of gluten, carbs, and drinks and turned to food for comfort.
A question that follows is: where does this leave keto? Some news sites claim that COVID has killed the keto diet[*]. Are they right?
The short answer is: no. In fact, as we adjust to the pandemic and learn to cope better, interest in health and immunity are steadily growing. According to recent data, coronavirus could actually be a wake-up call, driving people to invest more time and energy into their health.
As Quarantine Continues, People Are Returning to Healthy Living
Keto hit a low in March (right at the start of the pandemic), but by July, Google searches for keto nearly doubled[*]. In addition, sugar sales and prices have dropped by nearly 15% since March[*].
Mintel, a global market research firm, discovered a surge of interest in healthy diets after the first couple months of the pandemic[*]. Another survey they did found that people are especially interested in foods and diets that boost immunity[*].
It seems that the initial shock and stress of the pandemic drove people to find comfort — and many of them turned to baked goods, sweets, and alcohol.
But after adjusting to quarantine and working through the initial stress, data suggests that people are returning to healthy living with renewed vigor.
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Keto and COVID: Can Keto Boost Immune Function?
In the wake of COVID, you may be looking for ways to boost your immune function naturally and protect yourself from viruses.
To be clear: there’s no direct research on keto and COVID. However, there is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that keto may improve immunity.
Keto Protects Mice from Viral Infection
A 2019 study found that mice on a keto diet were significantly more resistant to the flu virus than were mice on a high-carb diet[*].
Mice on keto produced more gamma delta T cells, a special type of immune cell that produced protective mucus. As a result, their lungs were more protected from viral infection. Significantly more mice survived on a keto diet, compared to mice on a high-carb diet.
While this study isn’t in humans, the researchers proposed that humans may see a similar immune boost, and announced that they’d like to do the research in people soon.
One final note: giving the mice exogenous ketones did not boost their immunity. To get the stronger immune system, they had to be in ketosis as a result of eating a keto diet.
Keto Reduces Risk Factors for COVID
Heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes are four of the biggest risk factors for severe COVID infection. Each of them appears to increase the odds that COVID will be fatal[*][*].
Studies show that a keto diet can help with each of these risk factors.
- A long-term keto diet helped obese patients lose weight. It also lowered cholesterol, triglycerides, and high blood sugar, each of which is a risk factor for heart disease[*].
- Several studies have found that keto is excellent for controlling type 2 diabetes[*][*]. Some patients were able to get off their diabetes medication entirely; keto functionally cured their diabetes, as long as they maintained the diet.
- In one study of diabetic patients, keto also stabilized blood pressure, performing better than a prescription blood pressure medication (Orlistat)[*].
While there’s no evidence that keto can protect you from coronavirus, it may boost your immune function and reduce factors that increase risk of dying from COVID.
Immune-Boosting Keto Comfort Food for Stressful Times
Health aside, a lot of people seem to turn to comfort food in times of stress. Quarantine has certainly been stressful.
But instead of turning to sweets and baked goods, consider the following keto comfort food recipes.
As a bonus, each one is nutrient-dense and especially high in vitamin D — an immune-boosting vitamin that preliminary research suggests may reduce the risk and severity of COVID[*].
These recipes are delicious, comforting, and packed with nutrients. Give one a try the next time you want comfort food.
The Takeaway: Keto Is as Popular as Ever
After a brief drop at the beginning of COVID, keto has bounced back and is as popular as ever. Following a keto diet can be a valuable way to lose weight, boost immune function, and improve your overall health. If you’re looking for a new diet, keto may be a good choice. With a little knowledge and a trip to the grocery store, you can start keto today and see how the diet works for you.