Coronavirus or keto? Study shows diet causes flu-like symptoms

Feeling faint? Fear not, keto dieters. You may be able to blame your symptoms on the extreme low-carb, high-fat diet — and not the coronavirus.

A new study in the journal “Frontiers in Nutrition” has revealed that those just kicking off their ketogenic regimen have reportedly experienced symptoms common to the coronavirus or influenza, including headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, reduced energy, feeling faint, irregular heartbeat and “brain fog,” which seem to arise during the first few weeks on the diet.

Researchers in Australia perused 43 online forums for references of the so-called “keto flu,” and collected personal experiences of the condition from 101 accounts.

“The experiences of symptoms by many people strengthens the evidence for side-effects following the initiation of a ketogenic diet,” said Dr. Emmanuelle Bostock of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania. “These consumers have the most immediate experience of effects and side-effects and many choose to report and share these in online forums.”

The keto diet, popular among celebs like Tim Tebow and Halle Berry, is recognized as “an evidence-based treatment for intractable epilepsy,” according to the study report, yet many are self-administering the highly strict diet which eschews carbohydrates for the purposes of “weight loss, cognitive and memory enhancement, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, neurological and psychiatric disorders.”

“We focused on social media because of its widespread use for discussion of health topics, which makes it practical to harness the experience of people who have tried the treatment in question,” explained Bostock. “In the present study, we responsibly and respectfully used public domain online forum posts and analyzed their content to produce new insights into side-effects of the ketogenic diet.”

Scientists were previously aware of some symptoms common to early keto dieters, such as headaches, trouble focusing and gastrointestinal discomfort. Other symptoms typical of the flu, such as fever, cough, sore throat and sinus congestion, were not reported in the study.

They also found that the symptoms generally peaked during the first week on the regimen, and subsided after two to four weeks.

“Such reports can bring an illness or side effects into focus and can complement clinical observations and questionnaire-based research,” said Bostock. “We see potential for research of this nature to inform all aspects of health care on a continuous basis.”

Unfortunately, keto dieters have much more awkward side effects to worry about, like “keto breath” and the dreaded “keto crotch.” These colloquial terms refer to unpleasant body odors that come with the lifestyle. Since the food we eat affects our pH levels, which is closely tied with BO, an extreme change in diet may throw your body’s chemical make-up off balance.
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