How your diet can help flatten the curve – CNN.com, 27 March 2020, Dariush Mozaffarian, Dan Glickman and Simin Nikbin Meydani
“The Covid-19 coronavirus is disrupting almost every aspect of our lives in the US and across the world. As we face this daunting new challenge, it’s important to assess and bring to bear every tool we have in our arsenal to reduce infections, deaths and suffering from this outbreak.
Social distancing, hand washing, and quarantine can “flatten the curve.” But what role can food and nutrition play? We believe there are at least three important ways diet can help alleviate the public health crisis.”
Through the WI Lens
With a virus as deadly as Covid-19, it might seem unlikely that what you eat is going to determine whether or not you become a victim. Quite rightly, the first lines of defence are those which have been identified and heavily promoted around the world: the measures of self-isolation, social distancing and basic hygiene which prevent the virus getting an opportunity to infect individuals.
Nevertheless, this piece – by two prominent scientists and a former US Secretary of Agriculture – outlines three ways in which diet can play a part in determining the outcome of those who are exposed to the coronavirus. First is the broad range of nutrients, ranging from vitamins to turmeric and goji berry, which have established properties of boosting immunity and will in some cases turn a healthy diet into a lifesaver. Second is the danger of malnutrition – hunger ¬– which has been shown in other infectious diseases to provide a significantly increased risk of both illness and mortality.
In the US, some 30 million kids from low-income families stand to miss out on subsidized lunches and other meals as schools are closed down; nobody knows how many adults are going hungry. And the third factor is other conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease which are often caused by poor diet. One estimate is that poor diet already kills 530,000 Americans annually, without the virus, and many more may be vulnerable thanks to the coronavirus epidemic. These factors are prevalent in much of the world, and although they cannot all necessarily be addressed overnight, the likelihood of further pandemics highlights the importance of diet and nutrition in a new and urgent way. Governments need to play a part through establishing a national strategy of food security, relieving hunger and promoting healthy diets – but business will also be rewarded for taking these imperatives on board and showing the consumer that they contribute to the solution, not the problem.
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.