Biohacker Dave Asprey, creator of Bulletproof Coffee, and Dr. Mark Hyman, creator of The Pegan Diet — as in, paleo and vegan — recently went viral online with their conversation about evidence that obesity can increase the likelihood of serious complications from a coronavirus infection.
Obesity is characterized as low-grade chronic inflammation, which means an overweight body is in a constant state of stress-immune response. There are small proteins called cytokines that are released by fat cells that trigger inflammation. More body fat means more inflammation, meaning an increased risk of sickness and death from COVID-19.
Around 78% of people who were hospitalized, needed a ventilator, or died as a result of COVID-19 were overweight or obese, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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The report tracked more than 148,000 U.S. adults who received a COVID-19 diagnosis during an emergency department or inpatient visit at 238 U.S. hospitals between March and December 2020. Of those adults, more than 28% were overweight while 50% were obese.
Both experts spoke to Fox News about COVID-19 preventative care and recommended starting with an anti-inflammatory diet.
“First and foremost, I recommend everyone start working on getting metabolically healthy,” Hyman said. “This is a critical first step, and it doesn’t take years. You can see changes in your metabolic health within weeks by focusing on a low-glycemic diet filled with real whole foods.”
Hyman said that deaths from infection are often not due to the infection itself, but the body’s inability to fight it. Cutting sugar and starch from the diet is an easy way to jumpstart this effort. He instead recommended building a diet comprised of natural foods.
“Many of the (more than) 25,000 phytochemicals in are potent anti-inflammatories,” Hyman said. “Where is the best place to find these compounds? Fruits and vegetables. Foods like spices and certain oils also contain powerful anti-inflammatories.”
His diet, which combines paleo and vegan, is reminiscent of meals found in Asia or along the Mediterranean.
“Extra virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal, for example, which activates the same anti-inflammatory receptors as ibuprofen without all the side effects. Using turmeric, ginger, and rosemary with your meat can neutralize potential inflammation,” he said. “Omega-3 fatty acids found in wild foods like fish, seafood, and some nuts and seeds are essential for proper immune function. Mushrooms, including shitake, maitake, reishi, chaga, turkey tail, and cordyceps, contain immune-regulating and anti-cancer compounds called polysaccharides. And foods rich in vitamins and minerals boost immunity and reduce inflammation, including vitamin C, zinc, selenium, and vitamin D. Vitamin D alone regulates hundreds of genes that affect inflammation and immunity.”
He said food creativity will lead to a balanced diet.
Asprey also suggested adding one minute of a cold shower in the morning at the end of a hot shower to your daily routine to help lower inflammation and provide an unexpected feel-good.
“Stop eating vegetable oils and fried stuff,” Asprey said. “Radically reduce sugary drinks and extra sugar — it immediately lowers immunity. … An anti-inflammatory diet means you avoid the most common sources of inflammation from food and eat more of the things that contain more nutrients and [fewer] toxins. Move every day, even if you don’t exercise. A 20-minute walk does wonders.”
Hyman said creating an anti-inflammatory diet is more than adding exercise and cutting calories.
“We need to ask ourselves why so many Americans are struggling with chronic disease and obesity.” Hyman said. “The message pushed on us by our own government, health agencies, professional organizations, and especially the food industry is this: ‘It’s your fault you are overweight. Just eat less and exercise more.’ This fuels fatphobia and shaming. But here’s the truth: The food America is served is biologically addictive. So, willpower is a fiction. You can’t just eat less and exercise more. Ultra-processed foods high in starch and sugar, currently 60% of our calories, are biologically addictive products. Those who consume the most are the sickest and have the highest mortality.”
He called for federal officials to back policies that encourage growth, production and consumption of whole foods to reverse the obesity trends.
Asprey noted there are foods that boost the immune system. He listed stable fats like grass-fed butter and grass-fed meat can help boost the immune system, but noted that an anti-inflammatory diet doesn’t have to be costly if done correctly.
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“It’s easier than you might think, but you have to cook your own food,” Asprey said. “Grass-fed butter is about $3 per pound and is cheaper per calorie than fast food, but much healthier. White rice is affordable and low in toxins. Bulk frozen veggies. Order grass-fed beef online, and it still costs more, but you can eat less than you think. Eat more eggs, which are healthy and high in protein but low in cost. Packaged food is expensive and makes you hungry.”
Hyman said buying food on a budget should be basic, and researching and using guides can help you stay on plan.
“Stick to real, whole foods. Processed and packaged foods will cost you more in the long run,” he said. “If you stick to vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, and some high-quality meat, you’ll save money.”