As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc, we provided a rapid overview in our last editorial of the most efficient measures for dealing with the pandemic. One message stands out from the numerous recent contributions that we have published on the topic of COVID-19: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. And among the measures that can be taken during this confinement period, it may be worth exploring nutrition. Here’s why.
What’s the cure? Chloroquine up for debate
In countries like Poland, as confirmed by Grzegorz Cessak, president of the Polish Office for Registration of Medicinal Products, and Belgium, as Marc Wathelet, a Belgian doctor, attested in an interview, chloroquine is prescribed without a problem. But this is not the case in France, where there is a great deal of debate surrounding Professor Raoult and his disputed method. And yet, as Jean De Kervasdoué admits: “if I tested positive, I would follow Professor Raoult’s prescriptions from the moment the symptoms appear, given his international reputation as a scholar, which I also confirmed as a jury member for the university hospital selection.”
As Montaigne said, it is normal that “contact with others’ minds sharpens our own.” That’s why we’ve decided to launch a series entitled “The Raoult Debate,” in which we will give the floor to contributors who wish to put forward their opinion on the subject. In this vein, we have published the analyses of Marc Rameaux, a statistician who is well-known to the readers of the European Scientist, and those of Laurent Alexandre, the famous polemist. The former defends the Marseille-based specialist in infectiology, upholding the view that far from being absolute, the RCT method masks certain beliefs such as the “neutrality of chance, for example.” Furthermore, he believes that evidence-based medicine, though currently the best available method, should not exclude observational studies, as Professor Raoult calls them.
Conversely, Laurent Alexandre gives a scathing indictment of intuition as being potentially misleading, and according to him, potentially deadly. He calls for us to move on from the practice of medicine as it was done in the 1970s, and even talks about a “Gilet Jaunes” effect in medicine. The absence of modernization could have serious consequences, he claims, as GAFA and BATX are innovating rapidly and will end up colonizing us.
This clash is far from over. Even if it seems necessary, as too many mistakes have been made in the past, in times of pandemic we rush to find any solution… those solutions even include religion, as biologist Gabriel Wacksman wisely reminded us. But what if we are looking in the wrong places?
How to prevent obesity and Type 2 diabetes
The pandemic certainly hit us without warning, but it served to reveal our healthcare systems’ lack of preparation and shed light on the poor health conditions of certain vulnerable populations which have been particularly affected. This is the thesis put forward the famous British surgeon Aseem Malhotra, whose article “COVID-19 and the Elephant in the Room” beat the European Scientist’s record with over 150,000 views.
According to Dr. Malhotra, the ‘elephant’ is the fact that the SARS-CoV-2 virus disproportionately impacts two types of people: the obese and those with Type 2 diabetes. Because of this, Malhotra thinks it’s clear that “for COVID-19, prevention is not better than cure, prevention IS the cure, at least for the foreseeable future”. And prevention involves improving nutrition. Something to keep in mind for the “world of tomorrow.”
Confinement: an opportunity for better nutrition
On an optimistic note, as the majority of the planet remains in self-isolation, it is an unexpected opportunity to put Dr. Malhotra’s recommendations into practice without delay by taking the time to make better dietary choices. To that end, would like to take the opportunity to reiterate an excellent interview with Professor Legrand, which is worth rereading in light of the above.
Professor Legrand, director of the Biochemical Human Nutrition laboratory at the Agrocampus-INSERM of Rennes,and author of “Coup de Pieds dans le Plat” (“Kicking the Plate”), defines a healthy diet using three points:
– Ensuring dietary diversity, as required by humankind’s omnivorous nature, without restrictions
– Ensuring the caloric amount (portion sizes) is appropriate and not excessive
– Never downplaying the importance of pleasure and community in eating
For some time now, a certain effort has been made by public health authorities to support consumers in their dietary habits. And recently, many reflections have been put forward on the tricolor labelling system based on the British system.
In France, for example, a major communications strategy has been deployed around Nutriscore, a system that assigns a grade and color to food products. But according to Professor Legrand, “French experts are still not in agreement on Nutriscore.” In fact, the algorithm that assigns the grade fails to take certain points into consideration, giving fat content a consistently bad grade even though the issue is not the consumption of fat, but the quantity consumed. But does that mean throwing out these indicators altogether?
Not according to the expert from the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, since there are many others such as Nutricolors and SAIN. The idea is to provide the consumer with a tool for making responsible choices, without guilting them or vilifying certain food products. There are also alternatives being put forward in other European countries. In Italy, the battery score system, formally known as NutrInform, is currently under consideration by the EU.
The NutrInform labelling system simply indicates the number of calories in the labelled product, as well as the quantity of nutrients (fat, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium) that it contains, and the percentage of daily recommended intake. This system does not penalize any specific product and aims to provide essential information to the consumer in order to help them manage their daily diet.
There is no doubt that the debate around a cure-all or a vaccine for COVID-19 and future pandemics is far from over. However, we can take advantage of this confinement period to apply the age-old maxim that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” using this extra time at home to make better dietary choices and make food from scratch, rather than purchasing processed or prepared food. A good habit to start now, both to get through this pandemic and to carry with us as we emerge into a post-COVID world.