August 08, 2020 08:24
The world is awash with theories about why some countries seem to have far fewer coronavirus infections or deaths than others even though their lockdown procedures are similar or looser.
A team of researchers in France led by Jean Bousquet, a professor of pulmonary medicine at the University of Montpellier, has published a research paper in medical journal Clinical and Translational Allergy focusing on the question whether nutrition could be making the difference.
They said nutrition may "play a role in the immune defense against COVID-19 and may explain some of the differences seen in deaths across Europe." They concluded that although it is difficult to compare healthcare systems and death reporting across European countries, some nutritional factors may come into play because "some foods largely used in these countries may reduce angiotensin-converting enzyme activity or are anti-oxidants."
"Among the many possible areas of research, it might be important to understand diet and angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) levels in populations with different COVID-19 death rates since dietary interventions may be of great benefit," they added.
ACE2 is an enzyme attached to the cell membranes in the lungs, arteries, heart, kidney and intestines. The virus attaches to an ACE2 enzyme before entering a cell, but food affects ACE2.
"Foods with potent antioxidant or anti ACE activity -- like uncooked or fermented cabbage -- are largely consumed in low-death rate European countries, Korea and Taiwan, and might be considered in the low prevalence of deaths," the researches pointed out. "Turkey, another apparently low-death rate country, also consumes a lot of cabbage and fermented milk products."
Kwon Min-sung at the World Institute of Kimchi said the lactobacillus found in fermented foods could suppress COVID-19 infections. "Although the exact mechanism has yet to be proven, sugary substances found in some fermented foods could attach to the COVID-19 virus and neutralize the virus, preventing it from entering cells," Kwon added.
The French researchers also found that the coronavirus fatality rate rises among obese people, diabetics and people suffering from cardiovascular diseases, and all of those illnesses are related to diet.
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