MUST READ! COVID-19 Nutrition: European Study Links Consumption Of Fermented And Pickled Vegetables To Low COVID-19 Mortality
A new but intriguing European study involving the collaboration of 13 research centers and universities in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Franca and Switzerland suggests that COVID-19 mortality rates are likely to be lower in countries where diets are rich in fermented vegetables.
Though the study is published on a preprint server, it is currently being peer-reviewed by a few groups and is expected to be published into a leading journal in a few days’ time. However, this paper is a preliminary report and should not be regarded as conclusive or established information
Professor Dr Jean Bousquet from Charité, Universitätsmedizin Berlin and colleagues investigated whether diet may contribute to the significant variation in COVID-19 death rates that have been observed between countries.
The research found that in some countries with low mortality rates, the consumption of traditional fermented foods was high.
The study team said, “The negative ecological association between COVID-19 mortality and consumption of fermented vegetables supports the hypothesis previously reported.”
The team says that if their hypothesis is confirmed in future studies, COVID-19 will be the first infectious disease epidemic to involve biological mechanisms that are associated with a loss of “nature.”
It is said that significant changes in the microbiome caused by modern life and less fermented food consumption may have increased the spread or severity of the disease, they say.
Interestingly since the COVID-19 outbreak began in Wuhan, China, late last year, it has exhibited significant and unexplained geographical variations in the number of people infected and mortality rates.
For instance In Europe, the death rate in Italy, France, and the UK, for example, has been very high, compared with the Balkans and some Nordic countries. Similar disparities have also been observed across the globe.
Even though aspects such as age structure, the timing of interventions, employment type, and housing conditions are likely to be the most relevant factors, other potentially relevant factors such as nutrition should not be overlooked, say Dr Bousquet and colleagues.
Numerous foods have antioxidative properties, and nutrition has been proposed to play a mitigating role in COVID-19. The fermentation process increases the antioxidant activity of food products, including milk, fruit, vegetables, and meat.
Dr Bousquet and team hypothesized that the consumption of fermented foods might explain some of the differences in COVID-19 mortality rates between countries in Europe.
In order to test the hypothesis, the team used information from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database to assess the consumption of different fermented foods by country, including vegetables, milk, yogurt, sour milk, and pickled/marinated vegetables.
mortality rates were calculated using information from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, and EuroStat was used to obtain data on confounders by country, including gross domestic product, population density, the proportion aged over 64 years, unemployment rate and obesity prevalence.
The researchers report that of all the variables considered; only fermented vegetables had a significant impact on the mortality rate by country.
It was observed that for each gram per day increase in the average national consumption of fermented vegetables, the risk for COVID-19 mortality fell by 35.4%.
Dr Bousquet told Thailand Medical News, “Although this study is only indicative of the role of diet in COVID-19, it is, however, another piece of the hypothesis proposing that traditional fermented foods may be involved in the prevention of severe COVID-19 at a country level.”
The study team points out that their study was restricted to European countries and that it would be useful to test the hypothesis in other regions where fermented food consumption is high, and COVID-19 mortality rates are low.
Asia, for example had very low death rates, and the pandemic appears to be under control, say Dr Bousquet and team. “The same happened in Africa where the COVID-19 spread was predicted to be catastrophic, and death rates appear to be low.”
The team says it would be of great value to use food consumption data from such countries to perform definitive epidemiologic and mechanistic studies to confirm the current findings.
Dr Bousquetsaid, “If the hypothesis is proved, COVID-19 will be the first infectious disease epidemic whose biological mechanisms are proved to be associated with a loss of nature. When modern life led to eating reduced amounts of fermented foods, the microbiome drastically changed, and this may have facilitated SARS-CoV-2 to spread or to be more severe.”
This hypothesis requires testing in individual studies conducted in countries where there is widespread high consumption of fermented vegetables, concludes the team.
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