5 Ways Poor Diet May Increase Coronavirus Severity
Coronavirus should be called the Standard American Diet flu. The diet is perfectly designed to make American’s who’ve dutily followed the food pyramid sick.
America is like a hot dog stand. COVID is like Joey Chestnut.
We’ve created the perfect backdrop for this disease to thrive. If you build a house out of sand and a wind gust comes and knocks it down, is it the wind or the shaky foundation that caused the fall?
The most prominent risk factors for the severity of the disease are metabolic in nature: Things directly caused by the western diet. In fact, this study on 5700 NYC patients showed that 94% had a diagnosed comorbidity: comorbidities that all have dietary causes.
Our health is only getting worse and this should be the kick in the a** to turn it around. But no…
Instead, we’re going to get through COVID with 0 additional awareness about the benefits of metabolic health & the connection to immune function. It’s so f**king sad.
The media wants you to think that if you’re outside and the wind gust hits just right, you can get COVID from miles away…and no matter how healthy you are you can and will drop dead. They’ll tell you that the only way out is with a global vaccine.
But the real focus should be on metabolic health & functional medicine.
That is how we beat COVID, prepare for another similar pandemic & truly revitalize this country.
Let me explain.
Before going further, I am not a medical professional. I am a statue. This is my read based on the research.
We’re Swimming in Polluted Water…And Nobody Realizes It
This is the elephant in the room…the real cause of this corona panic. There’s a meteor approaching earth and they’re silencing it. Fragments are breaking off. And they want us to stay inside to minimize the death rate in case of a collision. They’re using this as an excuse.
No, there’s no conspiracy here. Just one of the softest sickest societies ever getting attacked by a virus.
In fact, recent NHANES data revealed that 88% of this country is metabolically sick. How are more people not outraged over this? Little by little our health is whittled away by the sick, synthetic modern society we live in. And not only are people okay with it. They justify it, celebrate it, and attack detractors for “fat shaming”. WTF is going on.
We’re on a high-speed train careening off of a cliff. And nobody sees it. Instead of going in reverse, or even pumping the breaks, we’re just throwing water balloons on the train.
And it’s not just obesity that is up. Autism is up 270x in the last 40 years. 20% of people are on psychiatric drugs. There are too many disastrous health trends to keep track of.
It’s time to wake up.
And just to make this extra clear, I am not for making anybody feel bad about their weight. But at the same time, I think we all need to acknowledge that obesity is an illness that severely compromises your health. For the same reason we don’t have a cocaine addiction positivity movement, we should not have a body positivity movement.
Here’s a quote from Epictetus I turn to often:
“Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility is possible”
If you try to control the outside world, you’re doomed to failure and will be riddled with anxiety. But if you figure out what’s in your control and attack that, you will find peace.
Back to the flu.
The truth however, based on my analysis, people have a lot more control than the media leads them on to believe. Once again, this isn’t to diminish the severity of the disease or the caution you should take.
But I think that there are steps you can take to dramatically reduce your risk of dying from COVID.
Based on my research into the epidemiology and the pathophysiology of the disease, I hypothesize that the severity of the disease is highly correlated to metabolic health.
Why is metabolic health so predictive of a severe outcome? First, let me touch on how COVID exerts most of its damage.
How COVID Kills: ARDS
Viruses are extremely intelligent. To live they need a host. COVID-19 infects humans through a receptor called ACE2 that lines many of our organs and epithelial cells. It’s fairly unique in this attachment mechanism.
After entering a cell through ACE2 it hijacks the ribosomes in cells and actually uses our own machinery to replicate itself.
Unlike the common cold, what’s especially bad about this coronavirus is its ability to enter the ACE2 receptors on the alveoli of our lungs. If you get rid of coronavirus before it reaches the lungs, you’ll just get what seems like a common cold. But if it can get into organs like the lungs, this is when real issues begin.
Lungs are like sponges that use alveoli as air pockets to exchange oxygen and co2.
ACE2 receptors line what are called type 2 pneumocytes in the lungs. When COVID attaches it can destroy them and cause alveoli to collapse.
Your body’s immune system goes on high alert and releases what are called cytokines — like immune system alarms — signaling it to attack. This is not only normal, but is beneficial to fight off the infection.
Pus forms around the alveoli as cells die. This is what’s known as a bad time — or also pneumonia.
If your immune system is functioning appropriately, you should be able to win this war against pneumonia. Many people get pneumonia every year and few dies.
Most people from coronavirus are not dying from pneumonia. They’re dying from the immune response gone haywire and leading to something even worse.
They’re dying from ARDS — acute respiratory distress syndrome. This is the rapid onset of widespread inflammation in the lungs. It happens when the immune response is dysregulated and goes haywire. It’s like if you tried to put out a fire with a hose but instead drowned everyone in the home.
It’s similar to what will happen if I criticize the vegan diet for too long and dr greger comes over and holds my head under water….
The real question is what leads to this exacerbated response and why isn’t everybody experiencing it.
I believe it’s due to poor metabolic health and something that ties all these comorbidities together: low grade, chronic systemic inflammation
How Poor Nutrition May Increase the Severity of COVID
First off, what is poor metabolic health? It is characterized by a milieu of factors consisting of elevated blood glucose, low HDL, increased waist size, high blood pressure and increased triglycerides. And over 88% of the US has poor metabolic health. Amongst people above 65, only 2% are metabolically unhealthy.
Despite more Americans eating so called “healthy diets” metabolic issues continue to increase in prevalence. The food pyramid scheme all but guarantees poor metabolic health and susceptibility to coronavirus.
How does it exert these effects? The SAD produces a metabolic cocktail of consequences which all exacerbate coronavirus
Don’t get me wrong…metabolic health doesn’t make you invincible. But based on all the studies I’ve reviewed below, I think that the stronger your metabolic health, the greater chance you and your immune system dominate the hell out of COVID if you get it.
Briefly I will touch on them.
#1 Obesity Disrupts Immune Function & May Make People More Contagious
People are starting to wake up to the impact of obesity on coronavirus. As I constantly preach, being obese should not be part of your identity. Not only is it an attack on your beauty…it is an attack on your health & arteries. It is not fat shaming to tell someone they should lose weight. It is tough love. It is caring for them and trying to improve their health.
This review in the United Kingdom found that 72% of patients with COVID-19 were overweight or obese. And that among patients with BMI > 30 who had undergone intensive care, 61% died.
This review found that BMI was directly correlated to severity of COVID outcome. Lastly, a study in a Shenzen found hospital found that obesity increased the risk of a severe case by 3.5x.
There’s clearly more at stake when you’re obese than having to wear bigger clothes…
Why is that the case?
The health of fat cells is critical for your immune function. In healthy fat cell tissue macrophages — a type of immune cell — make up ~5–10% of cells. However, in obese cells, they can comprise up to 50% of all cells.
Overstuffed fat cells are inflamed and release cytokines like IL-6 and TNF-α. They are crying out for help, even if you are not.
The release of these proinflammatory cytokines can block the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, impairing the resolution of inflammation.
Obesity also dysregulates the adaptive immune system response.
The immune system is made up of 2 distinct arms—the innate and adaptive immune systems. It all needs to be carefully regulated and coordinated for you to mount a proper response to infections. The innate immune system has no memory — like someone deficient in vitamin B12. Whereas the adaptive immune has B and T cells which are capable of remembering diseases.
The adaptive immune system has two types of responses: TH1 and Th2. To completely oversimplify this system for the sake of discussion here, you can think of TH1 helper cells as the front-line army of your adaptive immune system and TH2 as those inside the fort.
According to a great paper published by Tommy Wood, obesity and metabolic dysfunction downregulates TH1 relative to TH2. And this imbalance is “thought to underlie the increase in mortality seen in mice who received a prototype vaccine for the related SARS‐CoV‐1 virus and were then exposed to a viral challenge”. Obese individuals have higher baseline inflammation which downregulates the initial response. This ultimately then leads to a hyper exaggerated follow-on response which may trigger ARDS.
The last reason why we should be concerned about obesity in relation to covid is because some research shows that obese people are more contagious. Obese people take longer to shed viruses, thus can increase the r0 of the disease. Even worse, they serve as breeding grounds for potentially more “virulent strains”. Essentially, this article is saying an obese person is almost a walking viral lab — creating new strains and spreading them.
Given this is the case, should we really still be encouraging and celebrating obesity?
#2 Elevated Blood Glucose Impairs Lymphocyte Function & May Exacerbate the Cytokine Storm
The CDC estimates that diabetes may increase your risk of death up to 10-fold from coronavirus. This study found that excessive blood glucose variability increased the risk of death 7x (vs glycemic variability within 3.9 to 10.0 mmol/L).
Why is this the case? Part of it is probably because of the chronic inflammation I mentioned above.
But some evidence shows that hyperglycemia is directly related to the severity of the cytokine storm that brings on ARDS.
‘The transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) is critical for pro-inflammatory cytokine production and, if it is genetically deleted in mice, the animals are protected against influenza-induced cytokine storms.
Glycation is necessary for the storm and that patients infected with influenza have higher blood glucose levels and more O-GlcNacylation of IRF5 than healthy controls. Furthermore, blood glucose levels correlated tightly with levels of inflammatory cytokines”
David Sinclair at Harvard proposed another mechanism whereby high blood glucose could exacerbate the disease. Some research suggests that covid 19 attacks hemoglobin in red blood cells which render them incapable of carrying oxygen. The higher the glycation of red blood cells, the more vulnerable they are. Glycation is just a measure of how much glucose is stuck to them. If that was the case, we’d expect to see more severity with increasing hba1c, which is actually what we’re seeing.
Some other mechanisms also relate to immune system dysregulation. Fasting blood glucose is associated with a lower neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio. Like the movie the purge, high blood glucose disables the police department protecting your body’s first defense layer. Short term hyperglycemia can also unfavorably redistribute T helper cell balance like discussed above.
#3 Low Cholesterol May Impair Immunity
Another metabolic issue is low cholesterol. Yes, you heard that correctly. I think there’s a good case to be made that low cholesterol is worse than high healthy cholesterol — which for some people will be like hearing smoking is good for you.
In fact, low HDL is one of the characteristics of metabolic syndrome.
Let me step back. Cholesterol is one of the most feared molecules in the world today — next to gluten and nuclear weapons. It’s the reason for the “diet heart hypothesis” and most dietary recommendations today. But cholesterol is one of the most vital compounds: It’s necessary for vitamin d production, sex hormones, brain synapses and all cell membranes.
With regards to covid, it’s an extremely important component of our immune system. It binds to and can help to eliminate pathogens. Our bodies actually increase cholesterol production when we’re damaged to aid in the healing process. And LDL lipoproteins carry antioxidants like vitamin E.
This observational report found low serum cholesterol among patients with COVID 19 in China. Now, this may be because LDL levels fell during infection, not that they were low before the infection.
However, a letter in the BMJ recently underscored these findings. “In a meta-analysis of 19 cohort studies including almost 70,000 deaths, Jacobs et al. found an inverse association between serum cholesterol and mortality from respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, most of which are of an infectious origin”. In fact, the editors even recommended that people discontinue cholesterol lowering treatment while the COVID vigilante is still out there.
HDL also plays a potent anti-inflammatory role. It serves as a carrier for oxidized lipid neutralizing enzymes and is also capable of neutralizing LPS.
#4 Nutrient Deficiencies Disrupt Immunocompetence
Another major piece in this disastrous health puzzle are nutrient deficiencies which are ubiquitous.
Vitamins A D E K zinc, iron selenium, are all critical for the immune system — immunocompetence some call it — and mainly found in animal products. With the inane recommendations to avoid red meat, people have gaping holes in their immune system. Once again, not claiming this is solely responsible, but another factor that’s in your control
The chart below (you may need to squint, but if you ate liver every day, you’d be able to see this perfectly…lol) shows the role of different vitamins in immune function.
Based on my read, Vitamin D seems to be one of the most important nutrients in relation to covid outcomes. Innate immune cells express a vitamin D receptor and it is critical to their function.
“The active form of vitamin D regulates two important antimicrobial proteins, cathelicidin and defensin. Vitamin D has also been shown to stimulate other components of innate immunity, including immune cell proliferation and cytokine production. Through these roles, vitamin D helps protect against infections caused by pathogens.”
This helps to explain how Vitamin D levels are so strongly correlated to severity of COVID. In this study pictured below 96% of the patients with mild illness had normal vitamin D. Whereas only 4% of patients with severe cases did.
Another study in Indonesia showed that those with a Vitamin D level between 20 ng/mL and 30 ng/mL had a 7x higher risk of death than those with levels above 30 ng/mL.
Lastly, this report showed that 90% of ARDS cases had low Vitamin D.
Raising your vitamin D levels is free. There are no excuses not to.
Some other important nutrients for immunocompetence are below:
- Selenium: Supports enzymes involved in glutathione production. Low selenium is associated with more severe COVID outcomes
- Vitamin E: Helps to support the TH1 response and downregulate TH2
- Zinc: Essential for T lymphocyte development & activation. Also supports the TH1 response. Scavenges free radicals.
- Copper: Free radical scavenger. Has roles in antibody production.
- Folate: Supports TH1 immune response
- Vitamin A: Necessary for proper function of lymphocytes and generation of antibodies
How many of the so-called “healthy people” dying from COVID are actually severely deficient in these nutrients? I’d guess a lot, considering how ubiquitous these deficiencies are.
#5 Seed Oil Consumption Increases Baseline Inflammation & May Trigger the Cytokine Storm
The increase in seed oil consumption is the single largest change in diets in the last 100 years.
I believe consumption of seed oils is the single worst thing for health…even worse than (gasp) broccoli!!
Seed oils consumption unsurprisingly may play a role in COVID severity.
COVID-19 is new, sure. But ARDS is not. An older study on ARDS that Tucker Goodrich surfaced can help provide some insight into the role seed oils may play.
This study cites:
“During intensive care treatment, patients with ARDS decrease their percentage plasma concentrations of total plasma linoleic acid, but increase their percentage concentrations of oleic and palmitoleic acids. As plasma linoleic acid concentrations decreased, there was usually an increase in plasma 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal values, one of its specific peroxidation products, suggestive of severe oxidative stress leading to molecular damage to lipids”
4-hydroxy-2-nonenal values, or 4-HNE is one of the primary breakdown products of linoleic acid that I frequently rail against. This study reveals that 4 HNE levels were significantly higher in patients who experienced ARDS. Interestingly this breakdown occurs during the course of the disease from the immune response.
If there are higher 4HNE levels in patients who experience ARDS, you’d think people would recommend against consuming the foods that break down into 4HNE!
What may be happening is that the cytokine storm from an infection is breaking down stored lipids into their even more toxic byproducts.
According to another paper
‘” The calculated ratios of serum free fatty acids (i.e., the ratio of C18 unsaturated fatty acids and to fully saturated palmitate, C16:0) increased and predicted the development of ARDS in at-risk patients.””
Lastly, similar to obesity, n-6 fats may exaggerate the cytokine storm by elevating baseline cytokine levels.
“Monocytes taken from subjects consuming a cholesterol-lowering diet, which involved a reduction in saturated fatty acid intake from 14.1 to 4.0% of dietary energy, and an increase from 6.1 to 8.8% in LA, over a 24-wk period, exhibited enhanced IL-1 and TNF-a production in response to endotoxin.”
Linoleic acid is also associated with the comorbidities mentioned above and could be one of the unifying mechanisms.
You can find more than you could ever want to know about this in Tucker’s great paper here.
Not sure you needed another reason to cut seed oils out of your diet, but here you have it.
Taking into account all of the studies discussed here, it’s not hard to see that we could dramatically lower the (already low) COVID death rate by improving metabolic health.
And frankly, I’m not sure what better catalyst we’ll ever have to galvanize a movement towards better eating & living.
I want to also give shoutouts to Ivor Cummins, Paul Saladino, Joseph Mercola & Tucker Goodrich who’ve done great work on the relation of this disease to metabolic health.
Tonika Bruce, also known as The Network Nurse, is a multi-talented individual with a career spanning over 20 years. She’s a Registered Nurse, speaker, author, and advocate for change, excelling in business building and team development. Tonika holds two Master’s degrees in Nursing and Business Administration, (MSN & MBA) and is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Nursing Practice in Executive Leadership.
Her expertise extends to various fields such as nursing, entrepreneurship, business, basketball coaching, and executive leadership. She is a published author of “Relentless Pursuit: Proven Tips for Unlocking Your Potentials, Limitless Success and Post COVID Syndrome: A Guide to Repositioning the Nursing Profession for A Post COVID Era”. Currently, Tonika is working on Thrudemic, an anthology examining the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on medical professionals and patients. To learn more, please visit www.thrudemic.com.
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