Those who are at the greatest risk of suffering complications from Covid-19 are people over 65 and those with pre-existing conditions. Those conditions include chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease and obesity. According to the CDC, chronic disease is the leading cause of death in the US, with 60% of adults having at least one chronic illness and 40% having two or more. Lifestyle is the main factor leading to these diseases, with nutrition playing a major role. Eating better can help you improve or heal pre-existing conditions.
According the the American Heart Association, Americans get more 50% of their calories from ultra-processed food, which is directly linked to poorer heart health. The CDC says that for every 5% increase in calories from ultra-processed food that we eat, there is a corresponding decrease in cardiovascular health. Ultra-processed foods also increase the risk of obesity, cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Obesity is a leading risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease and kidney disease. Based on observations by doctors treating Covid-19 patients with serious complications, the majority of those patients are overweight or obese. Obesity can lead to chronic inflammation and disrupt the function of your immune system, putting you at an increased risk of complications from infections and higher rates of chronic diseases.
Studies also show that consuming animal products leads to inflammation, which is a the root of chronic disease. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) advises that following a plant-based diet can reduce the incidence of chronic disease, and several studies presented at Nutrition 2018 highlighted the health benefits of a primarily plant-based diet. They showed that a high-quality plant-based diet led to better heart health, less weight gain and a 27% lower chance of dying from any cause as well as a 37% lower chance of dying from cancer. A new study from PCRM is also showing that eating a plant-based diet and avoiding dairy and other high fat foods can reduce and significantly improve asthma. Whole, plant-based foods are excellent sources of fiber, leading to improved gut health, weight control and better management of blood sugar.
It’s important to make sure that you are consuming a high quality plant-based diet consisting of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts that are as close to their natural state as possible. Avoid unhealthful refined grains like white flour and white rice, sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. The right diet will help prevent those pre-existing conditions that can lead to Covid-19 complications.