The Perfect Enemy | Study Reveals How Mediterranean Diet Might Counteract Covid-19
February 8, 2023
Read Time:5 Minute

Study Reveals How Mediterranean Diet Might Counteract Covid-19 – Olive Oil Times

New research demonstrated that flavonoids and hydroxytyrosol counteract some of the most deadly impacts of Covid 19, including cytokine storms and lung inflammation.

Dec. 1, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

A new com­pre­hen­sive review study shows how fol­low­ing a Mediterranean diet and con­sum­ing extra vir­gin olive oil might pro­vide some pro­tec­tion against the worst effects of a Covid-19 infec­tion.

Some evi­dence sug­gests that fol­low­ing the tra­di­tional Mediterranean diet might help pre­vent infec­tion.

Compared to other diets, such as the Western diet, the Mediterranean diet seems capa­ble of con­tain­ing inflam­ma­tion and inhibit­ing poten­tially deadly Covid-19 con­se­quences such as cytokine storms.

See Also:Spanish Researchers Begin Trialing Olive-Derived Treatment for Long Covid

The research, pub­lished by the Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry, gath­ered the avail­able data on key ele­ments of the Mediterranean diet, such as its phe­no­lic com­pounds, look­ing at their poten­tial impact in pre­vent­ing or treat­ing Covid-19 infec­tion.

In con­trast with the poten­tial ben­e­fi­cial effects of the Mediterranean diet, Western diets are related to sys­temic inflam­ma­tion, increased oxida­tive stress and lower immune response, and thus may increase the sever­ity of Covid-19 patients,” the researchers wrote.


These effects are due to their high con­tent of sat­u­rated fat, refined car­bo­hy­drates and sugar, and to their low con­tent of fiber,” they added.

In the intro­duc­tion of the study, the researchers pointed out how the Mediterranean diet has been cred­ited in sev­eral pre­vi­ous stud­ies with reduc­ing the risks of devel­op­ing com­mon severe con­di­tions such as meta­bolic syn­drome or car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

Current evi­dence sup­ports the poten­tial ben­e­fits that hydrox­y­ty­rosol, resver­a­trol, flavonols such as quercetin, fla­vanols like cat­e­chins, and fla­vanones on the order of narin­genin could have on Covid-19,” the authors wrote.

However, the sci­en­tists acknowl­edged that the impacts of these polyphe­nols com­monly found in Mediterranean diet foods on Covid-19 have yet to be proven.

Still, they wrote, these bioac­tive com­pounds show bio­log­i­cal activ­i­ties that can be use­ful to pre­vent this infec­tion and or to improve its prog­no­sis.”

The researchers ana­lyzed the prop­er­ties of the polyphe­nols, such as their antiox­i­dant activ­ity, which might con­trol inflam­ma­tion and the release of free rad­i­cals.

More specif­i­cally, researchers high­lighted how hydrox­y­ty­rosol sup­presses two enzymes: Matrix metalloproteinase‑9 (MMP‑9) and Cyclo-oxy­ge­nase‑2 (COX‑2). MMP‑9 is con­sid­ered respon­si­ble for allow­ing inflam­ma­tion to spread to the lungs.

Scientists believe that MMP‑9 and COX‑2 play an active role in caus­ing the cytokine storm, one of the most deadly con­di­tions caused by Covid-19.

Hydroxytyrosol is one of the most rel­e­vant phe­nols in extra vir­gin olive oil due to its abil­ity to pro­tect blood lipids from oxida­tive stress. It is also cred­ited with antivi­ral prop­er­ties.

Researchers also observed in a lab­o­ra­tory set­ting that resver­a­trol, a polyphe­nol com­monly found in Mediterranean diet foods, has demon­strated the abil­ity to inhibit res­pi­ra­tory viruses.

One of the rea­sons for this impact is its abil­ity to trig­ger the nuclear fac­tor ery­throid 2‑related fac­tor 2 (Nrf2), which improves cel­lu­lar antiox­i­dant defenses. Both hydrox­y­ty­rosol and resver­a­trol are con­sid­ered cru­cial in mod­u­lat­ing the Nrf2 defenses.

The acti­va­tion of Nrf2 has been pos­tu­lated as a poten­tial ther­a­peu­tic tar­get against this dis­ease since it is known to pro­tect from lung injuries such as acute lung injury or res­pi­ra­tory dis­tress syn­drome,” the researchers wrote.

The paper’s authors believe that resver­a­trol could also help pre­vent exces­sive inflam­ma­tion and result in even more ben­e­fits to patients with com­mon con­di­tions such as ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis or hyper­ten­sion.

The flavonoids found in the Mediterranean diet were also inves­ti­gated for their poten­tially ben­e­fi­cial impacts.

The antibac­te­r­ial and anti­cancer prop­er­ties of flavonoids are widely known. Moreover, these com­pounds, com­monly found in the Mediterranean diet, have the abil­ity to sequester free rad­i­cals,” the sci­en­tists wrote.

While flavonoids might acti­vate the Nrf2 path­way and mod­u­late the inflam­ma­tory process, researchers warned that fur­ther stud­ies are needed to assess such poten­tial.

Flavonols such as quercetin might con­tribute to pre­vent­ing the acute kid­ney dam­age caused by Covid-19, the acti­va­tion of harm­ful macrophages and the pro­tec­tion of the Nrf2 fac­tor.

The inter­est in quercetin’s anti-inflam­ma­tory and antivi­ral effects is also due to its ubiq­uity in foods highly asso­ci­ated with the Mediterranean diet, includ­ing apples, grapes and onions. It rep­re­sents the most abun­dant flavonoid in the human diet,” the researchers said.

In their con­clu­sions, the researchers high­lighted how the lack of evi­dence of polyphe­nols’ impact on Covid-19 should be addressed, and more stud­ies are needed.

Nevertheless, numer­ous stud­ies have demon­strated that these mol­e­cules induce pos­i­tive effects on sev­eral alter­ations induced by this dis­ease under con­di­tions other than SARS-COV‑2 infec­tion, such as oxida­tive stress, inflam­ma­tion, and throm­bo­sis,” they wrote.

This sci­en­tific infor­ma­tion is valu­able and sug­gests that the phe­no­lic com­pounds of the Mediterranean diet may rep­re­sent a poten­tial pro­tec­tive fac­tor against Covid-19. Still, cau­tion must be taken when con­nect­ing pre­ex­ist­ing data to this new infec­tion”, the researchers added.

In addi­tion to the ben­e­fi­cial effects on Covid-19 out­comes medi­ated by their antiox­i­dant and anti-inflam­ma­tory effects, the Mediterranean diet polyphe­nols can also act through other mech­a­nisms that are not addressed in this review arti­cle,” they con­cluded.


Related Articles