Cut sugar, control the virus

While the Covid-19 vaccine rollout grows apace around the globe, both of us are continuously astonished to see that no government or health authority has ever bothered to discuss the most basic of questions about this disease.

For instance, why is it that certain populations, like American and British people, have more deaths from Covid than others? What factors differentiate someone who gets Covid and experiences a mild form of the illness from someone who gets a severe form of the disease and dies?

Thus far, doctors only point to a few characteristics that predispose people to serious Covid: age, health conditions like heart disease, diabetes or vascular disease, and being a person of color. And they leave it at that, as though it is a strange accident of birth.

Nobody bothers to connect the dots and then follow where they might lead.

Here’s the trail as we see it. 

First off, we know that American and British people have suffered more deaths than elsewhere in Europe. It can’t be solely down to government incompetence, because other countries have been slow to respond to the virus with adequate equipment, lockdowns, social distancing  and the like.  

It might have far more to do with the fact that both populations are among the unhealthiest in the West. According to a 2014 Lancet review of nearly 1,800 studies of obesity rates worldwide, the US holds the dubious distinction of having the highest number of overweight and obese people in
the world. 

The study found that nearly 71 percent of American men and 62 percent of American women are overweight or obese. That compares to an average global obesity rate of 38 percent for men and 37 percent for women. 

As for Britain, it has its own dubious distinction as the most obese nation in Western Europe, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In fact, Britain’s rates of overweight and obesity—now 63 percent of all adults—are rising faster than those of any other developed nation.

Britain is now sixth heaviest of the OECD’s 35-member club of wealthy nations and one of five countries suffering from “historically high” rates of obesity since the 1990s.  Since that time, rates of obesity have increased by 92 percent in the UK, considerably worse than even the 65 percent increase in the US over the same period.

Obesity leads to that entire cascade of illnesses—high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases—all known to be risk factors for Covid.  

Here’s the possible reason why. Insulin, that all-important hormone produced by the pancreas, transfers sugar from the blood into the cells in muscles, liver and all other tissues, to be used in the production of ATP, the basic form of energy on which all our cells run. 

The amount of sugar in the blood returns to normal, and any excess is stored in muscles or fat cells to be used in the future.

With overweight or obese individuals, when sugar continuously floods their bloodstream, the insulin system gets overwhelmed, the cells stop responding appropriately to the insulin, and they become insulin resistant. The pancreas keeps flooding the body with insulin in an attempt to rectify things, but to no avail.  

This vicious cycle continues until eventually the person develops metabolic syndrome, and, ultimately, one or more of a host of degenerative diseases.

Besides damaging mitochondria, the power packs of the cells, insulin resistance results in chronic inflammation. In this state, if confronted with a foreign invader like a virus, the immune system remains on hyperdrive. The body’s responses to the invader linger, ultimately damaging healthy cells, tissues and organs.  

Cytokines, the immune system’s Paul Revere, ordinarily ride through the bloodstream calmly, alerting the cells if an infection has arrived and instructing them about the kind of counterattack needed.

But if the immune system has stayed on high alert, an army of Paul Reveres is produced, and the cells get instructed to initiate full nuclear war, causing enormous collateral damage to the body’s own healthy cells, tissues and organs. The patient ultimately dies from an outsize response of their own immune system. 

The next leg of the trail: we know that vitamin D helps to regulate insulin production and other elements of the immune system. People of color, particularly those living in northern climates, may require more vitamin D than people of other nationalities.

Although governments around the world are content to shore up all these damaged immune systems with a vaccine, there’s another, simpler way. 

Our immune systems display an intelligence that we will never be able to artificially reproduce.  As our Special Report highlights this month (page 26), simple measures can actually rejuvenate your immune system, enabling it to better carry out the miraculous work it was designed to do.

Before we look to nanotechnology and cutting-edge medicine to ‘improve’ the human system, it’s vital to keep the extraordinary system we were born with in top working order. Our governments would do well to adopt a new mantra: “Cut sugar, control the virus, save lives.”