Stone Age Doc’s Pandemic Perspective #5

The perfect (cytokine) storm

Why is there such extreme variability in the outcomes of persons who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus? Some persons have an unbalanced immune system that overreacts when challenged by something like the new coronavirus.  These individuals overproduce particular kinds of immune cells that release cytokines, chemicals that fight the virus but that when present in excessive amounts can also damage the host’s tissues. When this cytokine-driven inflammatory response is at low levels lasting for years it results in coronary artery disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and even osteoporosis. When massive amounts of cytokines are suddenly released during an influenza or coronavirus infection the result is cytokine storm, which results in multiple organ failure.

“Fat doesn’t just sit there!” has been my mantra for years. Fat stores contain several types of immune cells, the ones that produce cytokines. The more fat, the more cytokines. Obese persons who become infected with a virus are thus at risk of an overproduction of cytokines, which largely explains why older persons, MOST of whom are overweight or obese and who have heart or kidney disease, have the highest mortality rate.

Fatal outcomes are not limited to the elderly; a significant number of younger persons do not survive. I surmise that when we have detailed statistics we’ll find that most (in my opinion) will be found to be overweight or obese.

All this should be a wake-up call. It’s time for all overweight Americans to get moving and to eat less. It’s not easy but consider this: if we eliminated overweight and obesity we would eliminate almost all coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and kidney failure.



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