Nutritional status strongly influences severity of Covid-19, genome mutations: Study

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Written by Parul
| Chandigarh |

December 24, 2020 11:19:50 am


The paper says that an intake of micronutrients backed by balanced macronutrients can boost immunity.

Nutrition knowledge and research have widened the horizons of prevention and cure of serious virus threats, such as Covid-19. These studies further aid basic and clinical research for incorporating ideal food intakes to strengthen one’s immune system through natural remedies rather than artificial products, says ‘Nutrition Odds to Even Out Corona’, a review article authored by Dr Nancy Sahni, Dietician at PGIMER, published in the Journal of the Institute.

“Recent reviews show that there may be a strong influence of a person’s nutritional status not only on his response to pathogens, but also on the genetic make-up of the viral genome, viral severity and reproducible genome mutations. Therefore, the saying, ‘we are what we eat,’ holds true in nutrition research. The comprehensive resources of research will be indispensable for further nutrition and disease related investigations,” says Dr Sahni, speaking about the inspiration and intent of the paper.

Covid-19, like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) from 2002 to 2004 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) from 2012 until now, has also presented with early symptoms of cough and fever leading to mortality, significantly in vulnerable population and individuals with compromised immune system, with co-morbidities and the older population. The paper says that an intake of micronutrients backed by balanced macronutrients can boost immunity.

While micronutrients, vitamins and minerals are essential both for natural and adaptive immunity, almost all vitamins are essential for producing body’s antibodies which help in neutralising the pathogens. Some minerals, such as iron, zinc, and selenium, play an important role in growth and functioning of immune cells. No single food is recommended over another and variety is the key. The immune-protection of many of these nutrients is based on their antioxidant capacity and consumption of one particular food in excess can result in loss of the same.

Micronutrient adequacy is met only if all macronutrients, energy and protein from diet are taken in balanced amounts.

Covid-19 risk factors have spread world-wide but more vulnerable groups seems to reside in the developed and the developing nations, where there is an increased intake of Western dietary patterns consisting of high saturated fats, low complex carbohydrates, fibre and micronutrients. “Some functional foods such as turmeric, garlic and ginger have scientifically proven beneficial as anti-inflammatory, anti- microbial and antioxidant foods, which must be incorporated in the right amounts in daily diet to harvest their benefits against infectious disease and its consequences.”

Elderly and people with co-morbidities, obesity and uncontrolled diabetes are hit the hardest with this respiratory disease and according to the paper, optimum nutritional status is one of the important forms of defence against the process of existence of new viral pathogens. Malnutrition, both over as well as undernutrition, is rampant, both in developing and the developed world; therefore, it is important to check the nutritional status of the patients for studying the cause of the viral disease. Due to the faulty nutritional status, cell-mediated and adaptive immune responses are suppressed, thus leading to the vulnerability to the disease and severe consequences of the disease henceforth.

Obese people, adds Dr Sahni, are more likely to have independent risk factors for severe Covid-19, which include heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. They are more prone to metabolic syndrome in which blood glucose and lipids as well as blood pressure may be at unhealthy levels. Having uncontrolled diabetes could worsen the chances of getting seriously-ill from Covid-19, since viral infections can also increase inflammation or internal swelling in people with abnormal blood glucose levels. Therefore, diet must be monitored, along with other lifestyle factors to keep blood glucose levels under control.

The novel coronavirus affects one’s respiratory system, majorly lungs, but it could also affect the heart, especially a diseased heart, that has already been struggling to get the oxygenated blood throughout the body. Heart patients need to take additional precautions in order to cut down the risk, and following optimum therapeutic nutrition is a major precaution.

Dr Sahni recommends that people need to be close to nature, eat natural food and avoid ready-to-eat food products. “Value the traditional Indian systems of including seasonal produce, freshly-prepared food, herbs, condiments and spices in daily diet along with discipline in meal timings and avoiding physical inactivity.”

As for some simple suggestions, Dr Sahni asserts that optimum intake of micronutrients backed by balanced macronutrients will boost immunity. Water soluble Vitamin B and C help to repair tissues as well as make the lower respiratory tract less susceptible to infections and also enhance cell-mediated immune response. Rich sources of Vitamin C are also rich in polyphenols, such as hesperidin and rutin. Fat soluble vitamins, such as A (retinol, retinoic acid and beta carotene), D, and E, boost resistance to viral infections.

“This small virus has made us introspect the way we eat and live. Right nutritional knowledge and awareness about the quality of food is a must. Different nutritional societies are emphasising on the need for optimum and timely nutrition support at every stage of the disease for Covid-19 patients. Therefore, nutritional status as well as care is pivotal in determining both short-term and long-term outcomes for Covid-19 patients,” says Dr Sahni.

 

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