Oliver's Blog

Thursday 28th May 2020

What The Government Should Be Telling Us About COVID-19

What the government should be telling people is that most cases of people dying from Covid-19 could have been prevented. And most people can take steps to increase their health and reduce their chances of developing serious symptoms from this virus.

Pre-Existing Conditions Are Often Preventable

A report from the widely respected Kings Fund says that about 90% of deaths involving Covid-19 occur in people with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes or kidney disease, resulting in weaker immune systems that reduce the ability to fight infection.

These so-called ‘degenerative diseases’ are mostly caused by an unhealthy diet and lifestyle, which means that the majority of deaths from this virus are due to people’s chosen way of eating and living. This means that if as a nation or as a global community, we were all eating and living healthily, there would have been up to 90% less deaths from Covid-19.

Let’s repeat this startling fact – if the world implemented what is already known on how to prevent degenerative diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and respiratory problems, up to 90% less people would have died from this virus. So instead of the present world total of 350,000 deaths, there may have only been around 35,000. Approximately 315,000 people’s lives would have been saved.

What the world’s governments should be adding to their present messages is:

Take better care of your health and greatly reduce your chances of dying of Covid-19.

When It Comes To Pandemics Like This Prevention Is Much Easier Than Cure

People need to know this, and now. If governments got this information out then people would have an incentive and the information to make the choice to improve their health, such as lowering their intake of refined sugar and processed foods and eating a healthier plant based diet, and reduce their chances of getting serious or life threatening symptoms should they catch the virus.

This approach could be at least as effective as finding a vaccine to the virus and conducting a mass immunisation programme. It would also be far cheaper.

Type 2 Diabetes And Coronavirus

Of the various degenerative diseases the one that seems to most increase a person’s chance of dying from this virus is type 2 diabetes. In the UK it has been found that a quarter of people dying from this virus have diabetes. It is well known that people with diabetes, particularly if their blood sugar levels are not well controlled, are immunosuppressed. That is their immune system is not working so well, and so they are more prone to catching infections and suffering more serious symptoms.

The diabetes organisation Diabetes.co.uk reports that this is also true of people with raised blood sugar levels who have not yet been diagnosed with diabetes. As well as around 3.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes, it is estimated that there are nearly a million more with raised blood sugar levels with either pre-diabetes or undiagnosed diabetes.

Over 90% of those diagnosed have type 2 diabetes, which typically develops during adulthood, and is now being recognised as almost entirely a diet and lifestyle caused disease. In parts of the world where sugar and processed foods are not eaten, rates of type 2 diabetes are very low, it is in the “developed’ countries eating an unhealthy processed diet and often lacking exercise where this illness is rapidly increasing.

Less than 10% of people with diabetes have type 1, which usually develops very early in life, in the first few years. It has been considered to be genetically caused, but with an increase of something like 4% a year, recent evidence is indicating that it too may be partly diet and lifestyle caused.

So this means that nearly a quarter of those dying from Covid-19 are dying because of having a disease which that they could have avoided. The message the government should be putting out now is:

Reduce your sugar and processed foods intake, and adopt a balanced whole food plant based diet.

This is actually the diet now being recommended by all the top nutritionists, including the UK NHS with its Eatwell Guide, made up of 1/3 whole grains and complex carbohydrates, 1/3 vegetables and fruit, about 1/6 higher protein foods especially beans and vegetable sources of protein, and around 1/6 dairy foods or alternatives such as plant milks. If our nation adopted this diet overnight (rather optimistic I know, but in time this is the way it is going) within weeks or months it would be better protected from Covid-19. Read more at: www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/

And many people are predicting that there will be more pandemics affecting the world in the coming decades, with the increase in international travel we are sharing infectious diseases that in previous centuries may have stayed in just one local part of the world. Lets prepare and protect ourselves better from these future infections.

Why Aren't Governments Telling Us More?

So why aren’t governments telling us this? For the last 100 years or so, the study of health has focused on the bacteria and viruses involved in infectious diseases, and have given very little attention to how different people have different levels of susceptibility to a given microorganism.

Back in the 1800s when Pasteur and others were discovering how ‘germs’ caused some illnesses, there was a debate between those that felt that the bacteria and viruses were the main cause of illness, and others who observed that while some people picked up an infection and others not, that it was people’s state of health that determined whether they became sick or not.

The ‘germ theory’ argument won out, and has led to a much better understanding of many diseases and how to reduce them, but the other view that how likely we are to catch an infectious disease or suffer serious symptoms depends on the strength of our health has been largely ignored.

More Integrated And Balanced Approaches

Yet there is hope. In the last 20 years western medicine is catching up with what many traditional forms of medicine has known for hundreds or thousands of years, that our daily diet and lifestyle is the main determinant of whether we are healthy or suffer illness, including from many infectious diseases. And this is the understanding that the world needs right now, again learning how we can all take care of our own health through our daily way of living.

George Ohsawa was a Japanese man who healed himself of tuberculosis though diet and then started teaching macrobiotics in the mid 20th century. He devoted his life to teaching how our understanding of life and our daily way of living can prevent most diseases, and can often be used to heal a range of illnesses. I was inspired by his message when I first came across macrobiotics in 1980, and have been teaching ways that everyone can use to take better care of their health for the past 40 years.

If you are inspired to learn to take better care of your health, please join one of our online courses, or once the present restrictions are lifted, come and study in our wonderful centre and teaching kitchen.