Nutrition and Covid 19 – a personalised approach
Earlier this year the results of one of the largest and most detailed nutrition studies in the world were published. The PREDICT study made a detailed investigation of the body’s metabolic response to food, using large numbers of twins to verify that everyone reacts to food in their own unique way.
One of the surprises in the data was that identical twins responded very differently on a metabolic level to exactly the same foods. This emphasises the highly individual basis that the body works on, and why tailored nutrition will always be superior to generalised advice.
So how does this relate to Covid 19? Well, in the same way that we each have unique responses to foods, it has become clear over the past months that there is a vast range of different responses to coronavirus infection. We already have a good idea of the main coronavirus risk factors, and interestingly the big three - obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes - are all very treatable with nutrition. Even so it is still difficult to predict which individuals are most at risk, with some apparently ‘high risk’ people having almost unnoticeable symptoms while other, more healthy counterparts have been hospitalised.
There are a number of similarities between an individual’s response to food and to coronavirus – the following have been put forward by the Covid Symptoms Study team working alongside King’s College London:
People respond to food and coronavirus infection in a highly personalised way.
Many of the risk factors for severe COVID-19 are very similar to the risk factors for unhealthy responses to food (obesity, diabetes, inflammation, age, gut health and poor diet).
One-size-fits-all advice about COVID-19 risks doesn't work, and neither does one-size-fits-all advice about nutrition.
Following the results of the PREDICT study, the team are now considering the role played by gut bacteria (the microbiome) in our personal coronavirus response. This is heavily influenced by our diet and a healthy microbiome is crucial for a normal metabolic response to food. It is not yet known whether the microbiome is also the key to determining individual coronavirus risk, but it does play a major role in the immune response so there is likely to be a connection.
More research is clearly needed to fully understand the body’s unique reactions, but one thing is sure – at the School of Health we are right to focus on an individualised approach to all aspects of health.