It is common knowledge that nutritious foods help strengthen the immune system and that eating well leads to better health —especially during the pandemic. It is also known that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) offers numerous health benefits, so it can play a vital role in a healthy diet. And while no food has been proven to prevent or treat COVID-19, some research suggests EVOO could help combat the novel coronavirus. Namely, studies such as “COVID-19: The Inflammation Link and the Role of Nutrition in Potential Mitigation” by Ioannis Zabetakis, Ronan Lordan, Catherine Norton, and Alexandros Tsoupras, show a strong connection between the consumption of EVOO and the potential of reducing symptoms and severity among COVID-19 patients.
Strategies for better health
As the pandemic rages on, an understanding of the pathomechanisms of COVID-19 may facilitate the development of targeted anti-inflammatory therapies. Equally, it is important to determine prophylactic interventions to prevent or lower the incidence of infection.
In light of the ongoing public health emergency, a review of pharmacological and nutritional strategies to support the optimization of immune health seems both timely and worthwhile. As is the overview of some of the anti-inflammatory therapies that are under investigation and intended to dampen the inflammatory response in severe COVID-19 infections and to outline dietary considerations implicated in immune function and respiratory illness outcomes, as they may influence patient outcomes in severe COVID-19 infections.
Dietary patterns and prevention
Nutritional status can have a significant impact on an individual’s overall health, the reduction of noncummunicable diseases (NCDs) such as Covid, and a reduced susceptibility to developing infections. And whereas there is no single food or natural remedy that has been proven to prevent COVID-19 infections, which has been made clear by the World Health Organization, however, learning from previous research in relation to other viral infections, it is clear that nutritional status plays a significant role in patient outcomes.
According to the aforementioned study, “the presence of comorbidities in COVID-19 patients is currently a significant concern, which leads to the question of whether the nutritional status of these patients is a concern. Likewise, for those not affected, could following a diet characterized by anti-inflammatory properties potentially benefit or prevent severe infections in patients with comorbidities who contract COVID-19? In general, how important is it to follow a healthy diet currently for the general population?”
Due to its safety and ease of application, nutrition is well-placed to have a key role in the challenge of “keeping healthy people healthy”. Moderate-quality evidence suggests that dietary patterns and individual nutrients can influence systemic markers of immune functions. Furthermore, Maintaining nutritional status at this time is significant, since the battle against COVID-19 will likely last longer than what was initially anticipated.
The role of the Mediterranean diet
Numerous studies have over and over again underlined the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which promotes the high intake of a wide range of bioactive compounds and the relatively low intake of overly processed foods associated with negative health effects. Of course, it is the ideals of the Mediterranean diet that are important to follow, as a traditional Mediterranean diet is practically nonexistent these days, and countries of the Mediterranean follow a diet more closely related to the Western diet than that of their ancestors. Most national dietary guidelines follow similar principals to the Mediterranean diet by promoting the intake of fruit and vegetables, etc., in large quantities and advise that people limit their intake of processed food.
EVOO and the immune system
Fruit and vegetable intakes have been investigated for potential benefits in association with respiratory and inflammatory conditions due to their nutrient profile consisting of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that include phenolic compounds that can exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other beneficial effects.
According to the latest research, along with other popular foods in the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil lowers cytokine levels, reducing symptoms and severity among COVID-19 patients. Indeed, polyphenols found in EVOO may also exhibit antiviral effects against the West Nile virus, Zika virus, and Dengue virus. A recent umbrella review of research on fruits, vegetables, and health provides support for the dietary recommendation “to consume four or more servings per day” in this context; however, excessive intakes may also displace other valuable foods, potentially leading to nutrient deficiencies of some vitamins or minerals not found in these foods. For example, zinc is more prevalent in meat or dairy products. Fruits and vegetables are also sources of fiber important for gut health.