`Higher Consumption of Polyphenols Linked to Lower Risk of Contracting Covid-19 - Olive Oil Times

Higher Consumption of Polyphenols Linked to Lower Risk of Contracting Covid-19

By Daniel Dawson
Aug. 31, 2023 17:01 UTC

According to a new study from a team of researchers in Poland, indi­vid­u­als who con­sume diets high in polyphe­nols and other bioac­tive com­pounds have a reduced risk of con­tract­ing Covid-19.

The study exam­ined the rela­tion­ship between the con­sump­tion of bioac­tive com­pounds in extra vir­gin olive oil, gut micro­biota, and the risk of con­tract­ing Covid-19 in healthy Polish adults.

There are cur­rently no human stud­ies avail­able eval­u­at­ing the effec­tive­ness of higher dietary polyphe­nol, lig­nan and phy­tos­terol intake in reduc­ing Covid-19 risk,” the researchers wrote in the study, which was pub­lished in Frontiers.

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However, the antivi­ral effi­cacy of polyphe­nols, includ­ing lig­nans and plant sterols, has been con­firmed against SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, Ebola virus, HIV, influenza virus and other viruses caus­ing res­pi­ra­tory tract infec­tions,” they added.

The researchers said plenty of evi­dence sug­gests that fol­low­ing plant-based diets is an effec­tive strat­egy to pre­vent infec­tions and noted that this was likely due to bioac­tive com­pounds shap­ing the immune response by pro­mot­ing a healthy gut micro­bial com­po­si­tion.

Specifically, the antiox­i­dant con­stituents and anti-inflam­ma­tory agents of diet such as polyphe­nols and phy­tos­terols have been shown to pos­sess antivi­ral and immune-boost­ing prop­er­ties,” they wrote.

To bet­ter estab­lish the rela­tion­ship between polyphe­nols and the risk of con­tract­ing Covid-19, the study fol­lowed 95 par­tic­i­pants – 73 men and 22 women — aged between 25 and 45 — with healthy body fat and body mass indices and no chronic dis­eases from July to December 2020.

The researchers made a dietary assess­ment based on stan­dard self-report­ing meth­ods. The par­tic­i­pants were not told to sig­nif­i­cantly change their diet from what they nor­mally eat. At the time of the study, International Olive Council data show that olive oil con­sump­tion in Poland, a coun­try of 38 mil­lion peo­ple, reached 11,300 tons.

By the end of the study, the researchers observed a decline in the risk of con­tract­ing Covid-19 inversely related to the con­sump­tion of bioac­tive com­pounds; as the con­sump­tion of polyphe­nols increased, the risk of con­tract­ing the dis­ease decreased.

They added that the results were con­sis­tent regard­less of age, total energy intake, sex, diet, smok­ing sta­tus, body fat, body mass index, phys­i­cal activ­ity and alco­hol con­sump­tion.

The results showed that higher intake of total polyphe­nols, spe­cific lig­nans such as sec­oiso­lar­i­ciresinol and matairesinol, as well as total phy­tos­terols and some sub­classes: stig­mas­terols and β‑sitosterols was asso­ci­ated with a lower risk of Covid-19,” the researchers wrote.

Habitual con­sump­tion of total polyphe­nols, sec­oiso­lar­i­ciresinol, total phy­tos­terols, stig­mas­terol and β‑sitosterol was sig­nif­i­cantly lower among those who fell ill with Covid-19,” they added.

According to Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, β‑sitosterol makes up 75.6 to 90 per­cent of the total sterol frac­tion of olive oil, while stig­mas­terol makes up between 0.6 and 2 per­cent.

In the dis­cus­sion of their find­ings, the researchers sug­gested a few rea­sons why higher polyphe­nol and bioac­tive com­pound con­sump­tion was asso­ci­ated with a lower risk of con­tract­ing Covid-19.

They wrote that induced cytokine release syn­drome has been sug­gested to play a piv­otal role in the pathol­ogy of Covid-19, not­ing that polyphe­nols and phy­tos­terols inhibit the secre­tion of sev­eral pro-inflam­ma­tory com­pounds cre­ated by the hyper­ac­ti­va­tion of cytokines.

Polyphenols can also enhance resis­tance to for­eign pathogens through other inflam­ma­tion-related path­ways like acti­va­tion of T reg­u­la­tory cells, which can sup­press cyto­toxic T cell func­tion,” the researchers added.


They also noted that polyphe­nols and phy­tos­terols reduce cho­les­terol lev­els in the cell mem­brane, decreas­ing the avail­abil­ity of the main entry site into the cell for Covid-19.

Numerous stud­ies con­firm that a diet high in plant-based prod­ucts con­tain­ing, among oth­ers, phy­tos­terols nat­u­rally present in the cell mem­branes of lipid-rich plants (nuts, seeds, legumes, olive oil), is asso­ci­ated with a lower risk of infec­tion and a milder course of Covid-19,” the researchers wrote.

However, the researchers high­lighted the rela­tion­ship between the con­sump­tion of polyphe­nols and other plant sterols and healthy gut micro­biota as one of the most likely rea­sons for the health­ful effects of polyphe­nols against Covid-19.

They said con­sum­ing polyphe­nols and phy­tos­terols pro­motes the growth of ben­e­fi­cial microflora, such as Escherichia coli and Enterococcus. These bac­te­ria are involved in pro­duc­ing the B and T cells that help the body fight viral infec­tions.

According to World Health Organization data, there were more than 6.5 mil­lion con­firmed Covid-19 cases in Poland, with nearly 120,000 deaths reported. Globally, the WHO said there have been 770 mil­lion cases of Covid-19 and nearly 7 mil­lion deaths attrib­uted to the virus.

While recent data from the Centers for Disease Control in the United States sug­gest that the Covid-19 pan­demic may be fad­ing – aver­age daily deaths in the coun­try fell to the low­est level since 2019, before the spread of the virus in the U.S. – the researchers wrote that these find­ings should be con­sid­ered by pub­lic health offi­cial prepar­ing for future out­breaks res­pi­ra­tory tract viruses.

The antivi­ral effects of phy­to­chem­i­cals, com­bined with well-estab­lished antiox­i­dant, anti-inflam­ma­tory and anti-cho­les­terol activ­i­ties, have proven to be effec­tive in the pre­ven­tion and treat­ment of Covid-19 and may pro­vide an alter­na­tive or adju­vant solu­tion to drug treat­ment,” the researchers wrote. Especially since they show com­pa­ra­ble effects and fewer side effects than phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prepa­ra­tions.”

The ben­e­fi­cial effects of polyphe­nols and phy­tos­terols should be empha­sized, and these plant-based com­pounds should be regarded in the con­text of their util­ity as antivi­ral agents pre­vent­ing influenza-type infec­tions,” they con­cluded.


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