How the Covid Vaccine Works for People Who Eat Well and Have Healthy Habits

Even if you eat a balanced diet and exercise, it is not enough to stop a virus. Photo: Bigstock

I am passionate about fitness. I also follow a nutrient-dense “clean” diet, which means that I minimize my sugar intake and eat lots of whole foods in order to optimize my health.

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You might be wondering how effective such a diet and exercise program would be in the fight against Covid-19, as some have suggested – without supporting evidence – that vaccinations may be unnecessary for those who follow a healthy lifestyle.

As a research scientist who has studied nutrition for almost 20 years, I have observed with great interest the response of the healthy community to Covid-19 vaccines. While good nutrition can have a favorable impact on the immune system, it is unreasonable to expect nutrition itself to be a defense against a potentially deadly virus.

My experience with the science of nutrition

My lab group at the University of Memphis is studying the effect of isolated foods and nutrients on human health. In January 2009, we conducted a first study on a strict vegan diet. We recruited 43 men and women who could eat as many vegetables as they wanted, but only drank water, for 21 days.

The results showed improvements in many variables related to cardiometabolic health, such as blood cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin, and C-reactive protein – a protein that increases in response to inflammation. Since then, we have performed several human and animal nutrition studies using this dietary program.

My lab research has resulted in nearly 200 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts and book chapters specific to nutrients and exercise and the interplay between these two variables. The results of our work, as well as those of other scientists, clearly demonstrate the power of food to have a positive impact on health.

For many people, a positive change in eating habits translates into an improvement in clinically relevant measures such as cholesterol and blood sugar, which doctors can sometimes reduce or eliminate with certain drugs used to treat high cholesterol and diabetes. In other cases, these measures improve, but the patient still needs medication to control the disease. This tells us that in some situations a good nutrition program is just not enough to overcome the challenges of the body.

Nutrition and other wellness approaches are important

Although some natural products have been discussed as treatments for Covid-19, little emphasis has been placed on whole food nutrition as a protective measure. I find this regrettable and I think that strengthening our immune system in order to fight Covid-19 and other viral infections is of great importance. And the evidence tells us that a nutrient-dense diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep can all contribute to optimal immune function.

Regarding nutritional intake, a recently published study with a sample of healthcare professionals who contracted Covid-19 found that those who followed a diet of vegetables or fish were 73% and 59%, respectively, less likely to have moderate to severe symptoms. to those who have not followed these diets. While interesting, it’s important to remember that these findings represent an association rather than a causal effect.

While people can use nutrition to help boost their immune systems against Covid-19, diet is only one aspect. Other variables are also very important, including stress management, nutritional supplements, physical distance and mask use.

To be clear, all of these should be viewed as tools to help fight the coronavirus – not as a substitute for potentially life-saving vaccines.

Vaccines aren’t perfect, but they save lives

I find it interesting that almost all parents understand the importance of immunizing their children against serious illnesses like mumps, measles and chickenpox. They don’t expect certain foods or a stimulating environment to do the job of a vaccine.

However, when it comes to Covid-19, this thought process is being abandoned by some who believe that a healthy lifestyle will replace the vaccine, without seriously considering what the vaccine actually does to provide protection against the virus – something that a simple healthy lifestyle cannot do.

When considering getting the vaccine, keep this in mind: All medications come with risks, including seemingly benign things like aspirin. Hormonal contraception – used by millions of women each month – is believed to cause approximately 300 to 400 deaths per year in the United States. The same goes for cosmetic surgery, Botox injections, and other elective procedures.

Many people are willing to accept the low risks in these cases, but not with those involving Covid-19 vaccines – although the risk of serious complications or death from Covid-19 outweighs the low risk of adverse events. serious vaccine-related issues.

No lifestyle approach, including strict adherence to a holistic, nutrient-dense diet – vegan, plant-based or otherwise – will provide complete protection against Covid-19. Vaccines aren’t perfect either. In some cases, invasive infections do occur, although they continue to provide strong protection against serious illness and prevent death.

I encourage people to do whatever they can to improve the health and function of their immune systems, naturally. Then, think seriously about the additional protection that would be obtained from the Covid-19 vaccination. When people make decisions based on the latest science – which is constantly evolving – rather than emotions and misinformation, the decision needs to become much clearer.

* Richard Bloomer is Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Memphis.

© 2021 The Conversation. Posted with permission. Original in English.

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