Carvings January 15, 2022

In the news

So where do we go from here?

            The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is without a doubt the most confusing event that the medical  profession has ever faced – and the most humbling one. Much of the devastation wrought by this virus is due to the behavior of politicians – sometimes overreacting and sometimes failing to act in a timely manner. It’s easy to apply hindsight to malfeasance such as the nursing home debacle of New York state and the closing of California’s beaches but flip-flopping by respected organizations such as the CDC has reached embarrassing new heights.

            The refusal of healthcare workers to be vaccinated is a puzzlement. Now that nearly ten BILLION doses of the vaccine have been administered with the number of deaths caused by the vaccines  in the low thousands, it must be remembered that the observed complications, myocarditis, Guillain-Barre syndrome and blood clotting events are many-fold higher among infected persons than in those who have received the vaccine.

Two recent articles illustrate the confusion. One is titled Common Cold Could Prevent Against COVID-19, Study Says. The other, Common Cold Antibodies May Hinder Defense Against SARS-CoV-2 shows the opposite. My advice: ignore the articles about the common cold.

            It’s disheartening to learn that persons who have received three or even four doses of a vaccine may develop infection, and that some have died. We need to recognize that the overwhelming number of those deaths have occurred among persons with conditions that were very uncommon a century ago: obesity, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and hypertension.

            We do know that masks are somewhat effective but that inadequate materials, poor fit, wearing them below the nose, and prolonged use severely impair their effectiveness. And in the words of one researcher “a cloth mask is nothing more than a facial ornament”. But if you must be in a crowded area, it does make sense to wear a properly constructed (i.e. N95) mask, to apply it properly and to avoid  touching it (that’s tough!).

            Spend as much time outdoors as possible. Wash your hands several times a day with plain soap and water. Avoid crowds when you can but don’t become a hermit. Eat healthy foods – that means lots of fruit and vegetables, a variety of protein foods (especially wild salmon and smaller fish) and lose some weight. Considering that nearly 80 percent !!!!!!!!! of Americans are overweight and that excess fat is a serious contributor to the dreaded cytokine storm, that recommendation apples to just about everybody.

            And for heaven’s sake – get the vaccine!

Lifestyle

Go Mediterranean!

            I have been promoting olive oil for years and a recent report adds to the evidence that olive oil is an important element in a healthy diet. The study was done among more than 90,000 American health professionals over nearly 20 years. Numerous studies have  shown than those who enjoy the TRUE Mediterranean Diet – not what you get at your favorite pizza place – have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke.

            Even though the amount of olive oil consumed by Americans is much less than that taken in Spain or Italy, for example, the results could not be ignored. As little as a half-teaspoon a day was associated with (but did not necessarily cause) lower incidence of cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke), cancer, neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease and respiratory disease.

            There are four nutrients in olive oil that together contribute to its health benefits. It contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the latter being precursors to omega-3 fats that have a  major role in limiting inflammation, in supporting the immune system and in protection of the heart from rhythm abnormalities.

            It is rich in polyphenols, nutrients that are important in many chemical processes, especially in limiting inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a major driver of heart disease, stroke, cancer, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.

            Squalene, a chemical originally derived from sharks’ livers appears to protect us from certain forms of cancer.

            But there’s more to the story. Persons who adhere to a Mediterranean diet – and that was true in the subjects of this review – are  more likely to be of normal weight, to exercise, to eat less red meat, less saturated fat and more fruits and vegetables. Simply adding a teaspoon or two of olive oil to your diet isn’t likely to lengthen your life but making all those other lifestyle changes will.

            And of course, having a little red wine every day can’t hurt.

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