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Covid: why it’s bad science to blame the unvaccinated

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The majority of serious Covid cases are the direct result of a bad diet—something health authorities have known about, but ignored, since the epidemic started.

Covid-19 is being characterized as a pandemic of the unvaccinated. The vaccinated are safe and can lead a normal social life, while the unvaccinated are treated almost as social pariahs, and in some countries are not being allowed in restaurants or bars. In Moscow, for a few short weeks, the unvaccinated weren’t even allowed to get a haircut.

But the vaccine appears to offer protection for just six months or so, and the real story is that Covid is ultimately a pandemic of a bad diet, although this is not being promoted by health agencies or the media.  

People who suffer from one of the four conditions of obesity, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) or heart failure—collectively known as cardiometabolic conditions—make up two-thirds of hospital admissions for serious Covid infection. Each of these can be the result of poor lifestyle choices, and especially a diet of processed foods.  

Eating well should be promoted alongside vaccinations and mask-wearing as the three best ways to beat Covid, a new study has concluded after discovering that around 41 percent of serious Covid cases would likely never have happened in the first place had people been eating a healthy diet.1

The findings echo those of another study earlier in the year that estimated 64 percent of the people needing hospital treatment had lifestyle-related conditions and might have suffered a much milder reaction had they followed a healthy diet. As a result, eating proper food would, on its own, have removed an enormous burden from an overstretched healthcare system.2

Although vaccination is undoubtedly one of the best ways to protect the most vulnerable, for a short while at least, its effectiveness may have been overstated by health agencies who have been playing fast and loose with the data, a new analysis has found.3 If true, a healthy diet could upstage vaccinations as the most effective—and long-lasting—way to beat Covid, at least as a life-threatening disease.

Good diet, mild Covid

Plant-based foods including vegetables, fruit and legumes are the cornerstone of a healthy diet, and people who follow such a diet are far less likely to suffer a severe Covid infection. They even reduce their chances of getting the disease in the first place, say researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.1

After analyzing data from nearly 593,000 users of a smartphone app, the Covid-19 Symptom Study, the researchers discovered that people who were eating a poor diet or lived in socially deprived areas—two risk factors that often go hand-in-hand—were far more likely to suffer a serious Covid infection.

Nearly 32,000 of the participants had caught the Covid virus, SARS-CoV-2, but those who were eating the healthiest diet had a 41 percent lower risk of developing severe Covid. They also had a 9 percent lower chance of ever getting the virus at all. 

As the vaccine’s effectiveness drops from around 75 percent two months after inoculation to just 16 percent after six months, a good diet appears to offer better long-lasting protection.

Overall, nearly a third of all Covid cases could have been avoided had people eaten a healthy diet, the Harvard researchers estimate. Extrapolated globally, this suggests at least 76 million cases could have been avoided. “People can reduce their risk of getting Covid or having poor outcomes by paying attention to their diet,” said Andrew Chan, one of the researchers.

It’s time for governments to prioritize healthy eating as a proven way to protect against Covid, and it should be part of a three-pronged approach that also includes vaccination and mask-wearing, they conclude. And since a poor diet is common among the socially deprived, governments need to come up with ways to make better food more accessible and affordable.

Not a disease just of the elderly

The impact of a healthy diet could be even more significant than that on Covid’s severity, researchers from Tufts University found in an earlier study. They analyzed around 900,000 people with Covid who needed hospital care in the US last year and discovered that 64 percent suffered from at least one cardiometabolic condition. Of these, 20 percent had the “lifestyle disease” type 2 diabetes, 30 percent were obese, 26 percent had hypertension and nearly
12 percent had heart failure.

Although a healthy diet might not have prevented all those cases needing hospital treatment, it may have kept nearly 600,000 people out of emergency care in the US alone last year, which would have made Covid a far more manageable disease for doctors and nurses to deal with.

A diet of fast and processed foods is the real culprit, and the statistics bear this out. Although the US makes up just 5 percent of the world’s population, it accounts for 25 percent of all Covid deaths worldwide. And with half of Americans being diabetic or prediabetic and half again being hypertensive, while three-quarters are obese, it’s no wonder the US is witnessing more Covid deaths than any other nation, says the Tufts team.

Although Covid is seen as a disease of the elderly, these chronic health problems even trump age. A 35-year-old suffering from one of the four conditions has the same risk of needing hospital care for a Covid infection as a healthy 75-year-old and has a similar chance of dying from the infection as a healthy 65-year-old. In other words, these four conditions are aging people metabolically by up to 40 years.

The good news is that it’s a problem that can be reversed, and quickly. People who adopt healthier diets and lifestyles, including regular exercise, can get themselves out of the Covid danger zone within two months. As researcher Dariush Mozaffarian said: “We know that changes in diet quality alone, even without weight loss, rapidly improve health within six to eight weeks.”

A vaccine is no silver bullet, but changing to a healthier diet just might be—and one that can be long-lasting.

Covid-19: the latest lifestyle disease?

Clinical data from some 900,000 Americans who were hospitalized for Covid in 2020 revealed that 64 percent suffered from at least one cardiometabolic condition. Of these, 20 percent had the “lifestyle disease” type 2 diabetes, 30 percent were obese, 26 percent had hypertension and nearly 12 percent had heart failure.2

Known from the start

Although health agencies never promote the importance of a healthy diet, the relationship between cardiometabolic conditions and serious Covid infection has been known from the earliest days when the virus started to spread. 

Researchers in Wuhan, China, considered the epicenter of the pandemic, were some of the first to identify diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease as three of the biggest risk factors, and their findings were quickly endorsed by researchers in Italy, where the virus also peaked early.5

An analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 89 percent of people hospitalized with Covid had at least one of the five risk factors of hypertension, obesity, chronic lung disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, with hypertension and obesity being the
most prevalent.

Another study published earlier this year underscored the importance of healthy eating. The study, which included 3,000 healthcare workers in six countries, discovered that a diet that was either plant- or fish-based reduced the chances of a moderate to severe Covid infection by more than half.7

Chronic inflammation is the common bond between the cardiometabolic conditions, and this could trigger the escalation of lung injury, cytokine storm and respiratory failure, three of the life-threatening reactions to a serious Covid infection.

A poor diet completes the circle, the Tufts researchers say. A diet of processed foods lacks in essential virus fighters including zinc, selenium, quercetin and vitamins A, C, D, E and B6, which have all been used in high doses to treat seriously ill Covid patients. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols—found in plant-based foods—also support a healthy immune system and help control cytokine storms.

It works, for a while 

A good diet can help bolster the immune system for many years, but a Covid vaccine’s protective effects appear to last for just six months or so. Alarmed by the sudden escalation of cases in Israel—one of the first countries to achieve mass vaccination—its government commissioned researchers to investigate.

A team from Hebrew University in Jerusalem discovered that the Pfizer vaccine, which Israel chose for its mass vaccination program, had only a 16 percent protective effect after six months, and yet gave 75 percent protection two months after inoculation, suggesting its effectiveness
wanes quickly.

Despite these shortcomings, health agencies still maintain that Covid is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, but they may be manipulating the data to support that narrative. Last July, the CDC proclaimed that 97 percent of people needing hospital treatment for Covid are unvaccinated—but revealed a month later that the figures were based on hospital admissions from January to June. In those first four months or so, most Americans had not yet been double-vaxxed. In other words, most Covid cases in hospitals would not have had the chance to be vaccinated.

It seems perverse that health agencies, having known about the long-term protective qualities of a healthy diet from the outset, instead extol only the importance of vaccination. Despite the widespread uptake of vaccines, Covid cases continue to rise, as do sales of processed and fast foods. 

Perhaps one day health agencies will stop blaming the unvaccinated and instead connect the dots that lead straight to a bad diet.

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Gut, 2021; gutjnl-2021-325353


J Am Heart Assoc, 2021; 10: e019259

3; “Shockingly, CDC Now Lists Vaccinated Deaths as Unvaccinated”


Times of Israel, July 27, 2021


Lancet, 2020; 395(10229): 1054–62; JAMA, 2020; 323: 1775–6


MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 2020; 69: 458–64


BMJ Nutr Prev Health, 2021; 4: 257–66

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Article Topics: nutrition, vaccination, vaccine
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