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Mediterranean DietThe United States is experiencing another surge of COVID-19; can improvements to your diet help you stay healthy during these times?

In an interview with the New York Times last week, journalist and best-selling author Michael Pollan points out the strong correlation between what you eat and how well your body can cope with a COVID infection.

"[T]he predictors of a Covid death, a death from Covid, are essentially bad diet and an inflamed body. It’s all about inflammation. And Covid appears to send your immune system into this hyperdrive. And if you are already inflamed by a Western diet — and that is what this diet does to us, a diet of lots of processed food, lots of meat, lots of sugar — it screws with your microbiome and leaves your body inflamed."

His opinion is supported by experts such as Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and professor of medicine at Tufts Medical School, who believes that "[i]t’s undoubtedly the case that if we had a metabolically healthy population, Covid would be far less severe."[2]

Dr. Robert Lustig, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco points out that eating low quality foods can slowly degrade your health, but Covid adds urgency to improving our diets.

“We’ve known that processed food is dangerous, but we’ve always assumed it was for chronic diseases, ... what we didn’t know, until this pandemic, is that chronic disease also sets you up for morbidity and mortality from acute diseases [like COVID-19]." [3]

In order to reduce inflammation and improve metabolic health, experts recommend the Mediterranean Diet which has been rated "best diet" by US News four years in a row. Followers of Mediterranean eating patterns consume whole, unprocessed foods which have an immunity boosting effect. Furthermore, the extra virgin olive oil that is consumed as part of the diet helps combat inflammation with monounsaturated fats and high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols.  The plant-forward Med Diet was also listed as the #1 Easiest Diet to follow.

And you don't need to wait a long time in order to see the anti-inflammatory benefits of adopting the Mediterranean Diet. Researchers at the University of Ohio in their 2020 study report that how changes in diet can result in a "rapid anti-inflammatory effect, even in the presence of obesity pathology" and can even improve the efficacy of vaccines [4].

In conclusion, the "Western Diet" or the "Standard American Diet" may contribute to greater hospitalization and mortality rates.  Adopting a Mediterranean diet eating pattern can reverse that, and thus help improve Covid outcomes, by reducing inflammation and improving immune responses. 

[1] The Standard American Diet Kills Us Slowly in Normal Times and Quickly in Covid Times

[2] Does the American Diet Make Us More Susceptible to Covid?

[3] How the American Diet Turbocharges COVID-19

[4] The impact of nutrition on COVID-19 susceptibility and long-term consequences

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