November 30, 2023

Healthy food and lifestyles: The unexpected medicine for COVID-19


This opinion piece was written by Dr. Casey Means and Grady Means. It was published by The Hill last April 21, 2020.

In this article the authors talk about a rarely discussed fact about COVID: “Those at the highest risk of extreme illness and death have underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure”. These diseases have a common risk factor – unhealthy lifestyles.

According to the authors, these diseases are largely preventable through a healthy diet and lifestyle, “All Americans need to eat healthier foods, lose weight, and get into good physical shape. All of this supports immunity”. They add, “The message from COVID-19 is that chronic medications don’t ensure resilience against pandemic viruses. Only good physical health appears to have helped. It is, without exaggeration, a Darwinian moment for America. Americans must build personal immunity defenses through radical changes in diet and exercise, or risk getting sick and dying.”

Editor’s Note: This article is a gem because, for the first time, the issue of unhealthy lifestyles as a risk factor for COVID deaths has been highlighted. Also, the article discussed how public policy has contributed to the culture that normalizes “disease-promoting foods, sedentary behavior, and a health care and medical education system that still largely emphasizes sick care over prevention”.

This fact is not only applicable to the United States. It is also true around the world. If “experts” are predicting that there is going to be a permanent pandemic, then the COVID experience should teach us how we can better prepare our societies [read We must start planning for a permanent pandemic]. Relying on external solutions such as lockdowns, masking, school closure, and experimental vaccines have caused so much disruption in our societies. If we want to ensure that we are never caught off guard by another new epidemic, we must invest in true health. This is especially important knowing that a healthy immune system, as a result of a healthy body, has the capacity to deal with SARS-CoV-2 and future variants, see New study: T-cells induced by COVID infection can respond to new SARS-CoV-2 variants and Our immune system evolves to fight coronavirus variants.

To add, developing a healthy immune system can be done in a number of ways. A healthy diet and lifestyle is one way. The other can be done through an understanding of psychoneuroimmunology and taking an integrative view of health [see Happiness and health: what’s the connection? and What should you emphasize for good health: inner terrain or outer terrain?].

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