Covid: The eating habit linked to a lower risk of severe symptoms after infection – study

Coronavirus latest news headlines on January 4th

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Two new variants are causing fresh outbreaks of coronavirus across the UK. More infectious than previous strains, the new Omicron subvariants have proven more resilient to antibodies in the inoculated, and those who have previously had the virus. As cases climb, so are hospitalisation rates. New evidence, however, suggests our approach to eating could play a part in our risk of severe infection.

The new findings from the Intermountain Healthcare study, published in the British Medical Journal of Nutrition, Prevention and Health, have highlighted the benefits of intermittent fasting for Covid patients.

Benjamin Horne, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Healthcare, said in a news release: “You can imagine that during times of food scarcity, there were infectious diseases around.

“Being able to respond to those infectious diseases, when you’re still weakened from not having food, it would make a lot of sense… that fasting is involved in those mechanisms to protect against that infection.”

It had previously been known that intermittent fasting helped lower inflammation, protecting cardiovascular health.

There are several potential mechanisms that confer protection in intermittent fasting.

One potential benefit is that it promotes autophagy, where the body’s recycling system helps the body destroy and recycle damage in infected cells.

Intermittent fasting also reduces the release of pro-inflammatory cells known as monocytes, which circulate in the blood.

Previous investigations have shown that during fasting periods, these cells go into sleep mode, and become less inflammatory.

Reducing this inflammatory response is important in COVID-19 since it is responsible for poor outcomes following infection.

MedicalXpress adds: “In addition, after 12 to 14 hours of fasting, the body switches from using glucose in the blood to ketones, including linoleic acid.”

This is important, added Mr Horne, because linoleic and COVID-19 interact.

The expert explained: “There’s a pocket on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 that linoleic acid fits into – and can make the virus less able to attach to other cells.”

The team of researchers noted that although their findings are promising, intermittent fasting should not be adopted in replacement for the vaccine.

What’s more, the patients included in the study had adhered to the eating pattern for years, not weeks.

In fact, most participants said they had kept to the habit for approximately 40 years.

Anyone considering making changes to their dietary habits should consult a doctor first.

Doctor Horne added: “It should be further evaluated for potential short and long-term preventative or therapeutic use as a complementary approach to vaccines and anti-viral therapies for reducing COVID-19 severity.”

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