Belgian researchers at the University of Ghent have just established a potential link between diet and coronavirus infection. According to their study, relayed by The last news, people who develop severe symptoms of the disease do not have enough essential nutrients.
To establish this finding, scientists analyzed the blood of 138 coronavirus patients who were admitted to clinics at UZ Ghent and AZ Jan Palfijn last year. Almost all of the patients who became seriously ill or died in hospital had severe selenium and zinc deficiency.
“We wanted to check the level of certain nutrients in the blood of patients”, explains Professor Gijs Du Laing, who took part in this study, to our colleagues from HLN. “We knew from previous studies that people with deficiencies in certain nutrients get much more seriously ill with certain viral infections. We wanted to know if this was also the case before Covid-19.”
And the results have been quite telling. “Almost all of the patients who ended up becoming seriously ill or even dying in hospital had severe selenium and zinc deficiency in their blood upon admission.”, details the professor. Among the patients who died from Covid, 7 in 10 were severely deficient in both selenium and zinc. Patients who did not have this deficiency or in whom it was less pronounced survived Covid-19 more often and recovered faster. “They were clearly less seriously ill”, adds Gijs Du Laing.
Note that a deficiency of selenium or zinc in the blood during hospitalization has proven to be an even greater risk factor than the presence of diabetes, cancer, obesity or cardiovascular disease. “What is remarkable”, further specifies the scientist. “Because all of these conditions as a risk factor for serious Covid disease are constantly discussed, but not that of too low a level of selenium or zinc in the blood. However, our research indicates that this risk factor may play a role. a role.”
Belgian researchers nevertheless explain that similar research has already been undertaken in Germany and China. “In China, it has already been found that regions where people have enough selenium in their blood have significantly fewer Covid deaths”, they admit.
But what to eat, then?
Faced with this observation, the question that immediately comes to mind is the following: what should we consume to be sure of not being deficient in selenium and zinc? Professor De Laing calms the ardor and insists that there is no point in rushing on food supplements containing these two nutrients. “I wouldn’t go that far”, he explains. “You can also find both elements in meat and fish. So for healthy people with a normal immune system, it will often be enough to have a balanced diet. The situation is different for people belonging to vulnerable groups. . Because they often have more severe deficiencies, it may be wise for them to take more selenium and zinc. I am thinking, for example, of diabetic or cancer patients and of elderly people in retirement homes. “
The specialist also adds that particular emphasis should be placed on these nursing homes. “Many elderly people hardly eat meat any more. For example, because they have problems chewing. Currently, elderly people in nursing homes mainly receive iron or vitamin D supplements in addition to their diet. while many also need selenium and zinc for their immune systems to function properly. General practitioners and specialists could also check the blood levels of at-risk patients they are monitoring. “
Can we finally say with conviction that by giving zinc and selenium to people at high risk, we would see a decrease in the number of deaths from Covid? “Based on our study, we cannot say for sure”, recognizes Gijs Du Laing. “However, we have long known that these nutritional elements are essential for the proper functioning of the immune system and we now have indications that deficiencies may play a role in the progression of the disease. But more research is needed to confirm this. Also, if you start a course of selenium or zinc tomorrow, your level will not increase right away. It usually takes a few weeks before your blood status is at an optimal level. “
In conclusion, the professor nonetheless cites the example of Finland, where the government, for several decades, has artificially increased the selenium content of vegetables thanks to fertilizers. “What is striking is that this is one of the countries where Covid mortality is remarkably low …”, he says.