Does Diet Fight COVID-19?
There has been a lot of controversy regarding COVID-19. Are rates being exaggerated or underestimated? Should we wear masks, or not? Can you cure or prevent COVID-19 with vitamin C and elderberry syrup? I don't plan to go into detail about the first two. It isn't a hoax, and you should wear a mask. As my purpose is to talk about diet, I will go more into detail about that aspect. As for diet and COVID-19, let's explore.
Elderberry syrup is a popular remedy for many ailments such as colds, headaches, fever, etc. It does have side effects. For example, it is a diuretic, which means it causes you to excrete more water. While drinking more fluids may make up for that, as you need more fluids when you are ill, it doesn't really help when a substance acts as a diuretic. Also, nausea is a side effect. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=Elderberry
Now many medications have side effects, but does that mean we should dismiss elderberry syrup? If it has positive effects with some side effects, it still may be worth taking. But is there anything that may reduce COVID-19 or prevent it? On the contrary, it just may be that elderberry syrup can increase cytokine activity, which can potentially worsen viruses such as influenza and COVID-19.
Politifact touches upon this issue, but more research needs to be done before coming to a conclusion. https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/mar/23/does-elderberry-make-things-worse-people-exposed-c/
Now is there any evidence that elderberry syrup has some benefit against COVID-19? While elderberry syrup does show some anti-viral properties, there isn't any evidence that it can cure or prevent COVID-19 or any other viral disease. There is also no evidence that consuming extra vitamin C prevents viral infections. Certainly, it won't hurt to get your fruits and other sources of vitamin C, but don't take it as a cure or preventative against COVID-19 in lue of medication. https://www.uab.edu/news/youcanuse/item/11141-how-to-prepare-yourself-in-the-midst-of-a-pandemic If elderberry syrup doesn't work, are there any dietary recommendations that can improve COVID-19? It does appear that glutathione and vitamin D deficiency make COVID-19 worse. Green leafy vegetables, walnuts, avocadoes, and many other foods are sources of glutathione. But to be clear, this isn't a cure or treatment for COVID-19 nor preventative. It doesn't replace medication and doesn't negate the potential benefits if and when we get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Some say that a plant-based diet can prevent COVID-19. Is there any kernal of truth in this? Certainly, one can consume a plant-based diet and still catch COVID-19. But even if a plant-base diet cannot prevent or cure COVID-19, can it have any benefit at all? Most COVID-19 patients have some chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc. According to the CDC "as of May 30, 2020, among COVID-19 cases, the most common underlying health conditions were cardiovascular disease (32%), diabetes (30%), and chronic lung disease (18%). Hospitalizations were six times higher and deaths 12 times higher among those with reported underlying conditions compared with those with none reported." So 80% of COVID-19 patients have some form of comorbidity with a chronic condition. Many of these are reduced with a plant-base diet. However, as the elderly are more likely to have COVID-19, and they are also more likely to have chronic conditions, this may be correlation and not causation. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6924e2.htm
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, replacing animal proteins with plant proteins does reduce all-cause mortality. As this includes diseases that are comorbidities with COVID-19, this may indirectly suggest that a plant-based diet might lesson the likelihood one catches COVID-19 or dies of COVID-19 if one catches the disease and consumes a plant-based diet. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2768358?guestAccessKey=ab0fed67-f846-4b43-997d-de626d4b97d0& However, this by no means replaces the benefits of a mask. One can be exposed to the virus and not catch it whether plant-based or not. But just because it is possible to not catch it, doesn't mean it is a good idea to avoid precautions. Certainly adding a plant-based diet to precautions such as mask-wearing and social-distancing can be a benefit. But a plant-based diet should not be done in lue of COVID-19.