We were proud of ourselves, over here in the UK.
The government patted itself on the back for one of the fastest Covid vaccine rollouts in the world. Some 45 million people– 69 percent of the entire population of 65 million thus far – have now been vaccinated against Covid in a massive campaign that began around January of this year.
The Wall Street Journal referred to us as ‘the experiment watched by the world,’ as we lifted our Covid restrictions late last spring and proudly proclaimed the deal done.
Nevertheless, just months later, Covid cases are now rising again to about 50,000 a day. While deaths stand at some 200 per day at present, these are only a fraction of the 1,800 plus daily deaths we were seeing last February and March. Despite the lower death rate, herd immunity, as the NSJ puts it, is ‘proving elusive.’
Like Israel, Britain has discovered that vaccination protection is short-lived.
A slightly different situation exists in the US. Some 57 percent of the US has been vaccinated and cases have fallen from a daily high of 300,000 a day to about 80,000 a day – nearly four times lower. However, the daily death rates haven’t followed suit. While they stood at more than 4,000 a day last March, they’ve only halved, to about 2000 a day.
Many fewer people are getting Covid and dying from it, but the ratio of deaths per number of cases has actually gotten worse.
It’s also enlightening to compare the percentage of cases, deaths and proportion of the population vaccinated, state by state. Although all the states have vastly differing population sizes, it’s possible to compare them by examining Center for Disease Control figures of Covid cases and deaths in each state per million of the state’s population and then looking at the percentage of the population that is vaccinated.
At first it looks like there is a clear association between the death rate and the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated. Vermont, which has 71 percent of the population vaccinated, has half the death rate of, say, California, which has about 60 percent of the population vaccinated.
However, in many instances, any association between percentage vaccinated and lowering of death rate disappears. Utah, for instance, has one of the lowest vaccination rates of any state (52 percent), and one of the higher case rates (about 168,000 cases thus far), but also one of the country’s lowest death rates (913).
New Jersey, which got in there quickly with a vaccination campaign that achieved high percentage of vaccinated residents (66 percent), has one of the highest death rates per million of any state (3,130).
Clearly something else is afoot here, and that something is starting to appear in all the latest research. New evidence from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden discovered that 80 percent of the patients being treated in intensive care for Covid are obese or overweight, and the more obese you were, the greater the risk of dying from the infection (PLOS ONE, 2021; 16: e0257891).
Among nearly 1,700 Covid patients requiring intensive care treatment in the initial phase of the Covid pandemic who were profiled in the study, those with the highest body mass index (BMI) were more than twice as likely to die or suffer severe symptoms, the Swedish researchers reported.
And obesity was the one clear risk that remained, even after the Gothenburg team took into account the other Covid risk factors: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or liver and kidney disease.
Another multi-center study from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, involving 30 top scientists around the world and information about nearly 600,000 patients, concluded that the biggest risk factors for a serious Covid reaction were a poor diet or living in a socially deprived area (two risk factors that often co-exist).
The researchers discovered that those on the healthiest diet had a 41 percent lower risk of getting infected (Gut, 2021; gutjnl-2021-325353).
And other research from Tufts University shows that nearly three-quarters of patients requiring hospitalization had conditions related to poor lifestyle choices. Half had either the diabetes type 2 ‘lifestyle’ disease or were obese, and 26 percent had high blood pressure, which can generally be lowered with lifestyle changes (J Am Heart Assoc, 2021; 10: e019259).
America, which has had more Covid cases than anywhere else (46 million and counting), is also a country with the highest level of obesity in the world. More than three-quarters of Americans are considered overweight or obese.
Britain is the fattest nation in Europe, with some 65 per cent of the population overweight or obese.
It’s easy to see why. In America, fast foods like pizza, burgers, Cokes and the like, make up 57 percent of the average US person’s diet, according to a New York University study of 41,000 Americans (PLOS ONE, 2021; 16: e0257891). The researchers tracked the study participants from 2001 to 2018 and discovered that consumption of fast foods among every age group was inexorably rising.
Most shocking of all, the group with the highest increase in the consumption of processed foods were the over 60s.
The UK’s diet is fast becoming similar, and both countries have increased consumption of processed food in the wake of Covid, when people have been discouraged from food shopping and become more reliant on fast food take out and deliveries.
Let’s all do a bit of joined-up thinking.
President Joe Biden has been calling Covid a disease of the unvaccinated. But what’s clear is that it is mainly a disease of the overweight and obese and also the nutritionally starved.
‘People can reduce their risk of getting Covid or having poor outcomes by paying attention to their diet,” write Andrew Chan, one of the researchers of the Harvard study mentioned above, who believes that almost a third of cases would never have happened if people were just eating a healthy diet.
But if you or a loved one is a junk food junkie, it’s not too late to turn things around. As Dariush Mozaffarian, a professor of nutrition at Tufts Medical School, has declared, ‘changes in diet quality alone, even without weight loss,’ can improve health within just six to eight weeks.
You want to keep yourself and your relatives from serious reactions to Covid? Cancel that Uber Eats account and start cooking from scratch.
And President Biden: please don’t even think about inducing teens to get vaccines by handing out free pizzas. You’d only be making the situation worse.
During Bill Clinton's first presidential bid in 1992, his campaign slogan to his aides was: 'It's the economy, stupid.'
For a way out of the Covid crisis, our new mantra has to be: 'It's the diet, stupid.'
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