- Experts are trying to determine the factors that cause some countries to have more Covid-19 deaths than others
- A team of researchers found a link between fermented veggies and lower Covid-19 deaths
- Fermented foods have plenty of other health benefits
A balanced diet packed with antioxidants is often recommended for promoting general health and well-being and increasing your body’s ability to fight off illnesses.
You might have heard that your gut health plays an important role in maintaining your health. Only recently did medical experts start seeing the gut as one system that affects the whole body, discovering more and more how these tiny bacteria in our guts contribute to our overall health.
But how can gut health and nutrition be linked to a disease that largely affects the respiratory system?
A new study by a European research team suggests that Covid-19-related deaths are likely to be lower in countries where diets are rich in fermented vegetables such as kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles.
Jean Bousquet from Charité, Universitätsmedizin Berlin and his team wanted to investigate the role of diet in Covid-19 deaths to see if there is any significant link between what people eat in certain countries and the mortality rates in those countries.
Their research, which is currently published as a pre-print version on medrVIX, concluded that in countries where mortality rates were lower, people included traditional fermented foods in their diet, including, pickled or marinated vegetables and sour milk.
They then tested their theory against information from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database and looked at other factors such as population density, obesity prevalence, the number of people older than 64 and gross domestic product.
Although fermented foods in all their forms are beneficial to gut health, the impact of fermented vegetables was the most significant – for each gram consumed, the risk of Covid-19 death fell by 35.4%.
It’s important to note that the researchers focused mostly on European countries and that they need to test the theory in other regions where fermented foods are also frequently consumed, such as Asian countries.
According to Bousquet, it’s significant that the death rates are also lower in Asia, and that the mortality in Africa is not “nearly as catastrophic as predicted” and that it may be useful to look at food consumption in these countries.
The research has not been peer-reviewed yet and should not be used as a clinical guideline by any authority, but the findings are significant enough to mention.
Fermented foods and gut health
The role of fermented foods and health has been frequently discussed in Health24 articles. The fermentation process in foods is nothing new – fermentation was extensively used in the past to preserve food, long before fridges existed.
Microorganisms (such as bacteria, yeast or fungi) convert organic compounds (such as sugars and starch) into alcohol or acids, according to a Health24 article.
This process preserves the food, creating beneficial enzymes, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and various strains of probiotics.
When we consume these foods, we add healthy microbes to our guts, which can increase the levels of nutrients in the foods we consume.
The microbes also produce enzymes that break down the cellulose in plant foods and the lactose in milk into sugars, making it easier for our bodies to digest.
Can I prevent Covid-19 by adding fermented vegetables to my diet?
The findings of the study have not been peer-reviewed, and cannot be seen as clinical advice, but the potential link between fermented vegetables and countries with a lower Covid-19 death toll is indeed interesting.
So, the short answer is that we simply don’t know yet. However, adding more fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchi, gherkins and pickles to your diet will certainly not do any harm and can boost your gut health and overall well-being in the process.
According to Dr Andre Marette, Professor of Medicine at the Heart and Lung Institute at the Laval Hospital and Scientific Director of the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods at the Laval University in Canada, there is increasing evidence that fermented foods can help prevent chronic disease.
“People don’t realise the importance of fermentation because it allows bioactives to be more abundantly present in your gut,” he stated in a previous Health24 article.
The benefits are not only limited to veggies, but include yoghurt and sour milk.
If you feel your gut needs a bit of a boost, open that jar of sauerkraut today.
READ | Fermented foods – what's the deal?
READ | Why you should be eating yoghurt, even if you are lactose intolerant
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