This article is an opinion piece by Dr. John Beaney MB, BS. LRCP, MRCS (Retired) on the effects of poor nutrition and Covid 19 on the more susceptible members of our community.
There’s a saying I like: “when you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. I could well be found guilty in that regard having spent 6 years studying the impact of nutrition on our health rather than reliance on medication.
Nowhere is this impact more obvious than with the most vulnerable in our community during the Covid 19 pandemic.
The older we are, the more vulnerable we are. In general, young people don’t show symptoms of Covid 19 and, if they do, recover quickly without adverse consequences, as far as we currently know.
It’s a different story from the 30s upwards and most deaths occur in the over 70s and, for the over 80s there is an extremely high mortality.
There is another group who are highly vulnerable….
Those suffering from a common but rarely talked about condition called metabolic syndrome. Typically, they are the overweight and those suffering from Type 2 Diabetes and High Blood Pressure. They are also overrepresented in those with Heart Attacks and Strokes, Arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease and even Cancer.
All these vulnerabilities come together in our nursing homes. This is where our parents and grandparents go to live when they are either physically or mentally unable to look after themselves.
Optimal nutrition in nursing homes is vital
Not only is the choice of tasty meals the highlight of the day but also the backbone of good health. But food in nursing homes is often woefully inadequate.
There are widespread reports about the inadequacy of nursing home food, but a good starting point is the ABC television report that screened in September 2018: “Would you eat this? The real food inside aged care facilities in Australia”.
Failings in the System
Our nursing homes generally fail to follow the recommendations of bodies such as The Heart Foundation, Diabetes Australia, or the Dieticians Association of Australia which, in any case, fall well short of the optimal diet, particularly for the vulnerable.
Diabetes Australia describe Type 2 Diabetes as a chronic, progressive, incurable disease. Following their dietary recommendations, they are correct. Their high carbohydrate diet fails to address metabolic syndrome and will only aggravate Type 2 Diabetes and many other conditions.
Apart from too much carbohydrate, the other clear problem in nursing homes is the lack of good quality protein. Without adequate protein, the bodies of the elderly literally waste away.
I submit that a high quality, low carbohydrate diet, high in quality fat and protein would significantly enhance the ability of the vulnerable to resist Covid 19. A well-nourished 80-year-old might be able to respond to infection as well as an average 60-year-old. It could make the difference between home and ICU, the difference between life and death.
Typically, highly inflammatory blood sugars reduce within hours, blood pressure often within 48 hours, abnormal blood lipids in a matter of days, and all inflammatory blood markers within a few weeks. The ability of the body to fight the virus, indeed any disease, is greatly enhanced by an optimal diet.
You can read more about nutrition and the 6 Essential Nutrients we need to function here.