Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Covid-19 and Food: the missing link?

The feeling of fear and insecurity these days is so thick, it can be cut by a knife.
It is understandable. People are afraid because the media are bombarding us with some much information that half (at least) is useless.

Useless information 
Number of cases, number of deaths, percentage increases, new measures about lock in, what are the "essential services", what does exponential mean etc etc...
We do not need to know the number of cases. Given that the tests are limited at the moment, the number of cases has no biological value. None at all!

Covid-19: mode of action
But's lets talk about the fear of the virus. Let's see how the virus kills and how we can protect ourselves. Covid-19 causes in the human body a phenomenon called acute inflammation; this is coined as a “cytokine storm”: the virus attacks the immune system and a flood of immune-related chemicals are formed causing acute inflammation. 

This happens because the hyperactive white cells are not attacking only the virus but also healthy tissues, in this case the lungs. Because of this mode of action that covid-19 has, a number of drugs fighting inflammation are now under trial in few countries around the world in an attempt to mitigate the deadly impact of the virus.

Link of Chronic Diseases and Covid-19

Systemic inflammation is induced by several factors and it leads to the onset of chronic diseases, as explained extensively here.
The key to reducing the incidence of chronic diseases is to control the activities of inflammatory mediators via diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices. The key message, therefore, is that chronic diseases and covid-19 morbidity are linked: inflammation is the link.
It is thus clear that we are not completely vulnerable against covid-19. Our best defense against chronic diseases and covid-19 and the optimum way to maintain a strong immune system is through following a healthy lifestyle
We can maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising and adhering to a healthy diet, i.e. a diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds.

Anti-inflammatory foods
Anti-inflammatory foods are all the foods found in the bottom three selves of the Mediterranean  diet pyramid, namely fruits, vegetables, olive oil (not processed vegetable oils), red wine (in moderation, i.e. 1-2 glasses/day), nuts, tea, fish, seafood, fermented dairy (yoghurt and cheese). 
The anti-inflammatory properties of fish, tea, beer, milk, yoghurt and cheese have been assessed, as summarised here.
These foods can reduce the systemic inflammation associated with chronic diseases. A diet rich in these foods is therefore our best shield against chronic diseases but also against covid-19. 
One final word
During this crisis, the most vulnerable companies are the small and family businesses. The crisis is impacting already hugely on the food chain. Restaurants are shut and companies selling foods to restaurants are already experiencing a turnover drop of 60-70%. The government needs to intervene. But also, as consumers, we can support our local food producers by ordering their products on-line. By buying local food, we support our communities; this is vital during this crisis. For Ireland, an excellent list of local producers of quality foods and drinks is available here.

Yannis Zabetakis

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