Is your diet putting you at risk from covid-19?

There are many fascinating theories emerging around covid-19 and its seemingly selective nature in terms of severity of response. Naturally, as a Nutritionist I am drawn towards looking at the body’s immune response from a nutritional standpoint and so have been reading up about immune response, inflammation, and the dramatic sounding ‘cytokine storm’ in connection with covid-19.
DNA nutrition - photo of fruit and veg

Inflammation and diet

The conclusions we can draw are clear. Inflammation is arguably public health enemy number 1 and is the root of many chronic diseases.  A healthy diet supplying optimal antioxidants helps to mitigate the factors known to cause inflammation.  So in these worrying times as we all wonder how our own and our families immune systems may behave in response to this new aggressor, achieving a healthy diet is something that we can and should be paying real attention to.

Some of you may have switched off at ‘cytokine storm’ but if you’re still with me and want more persuasion before swapping your sausage sandwich for a superfood salad, read on.

We know that many diseases stem from chronic Inflammation.  Inflammation is triggered when small proteins called cytokines are released by cells in the body, including the immune system, in response to infection.  Diseases such as covid-19, in severe cases, can trigger what’s known as a ‘cytokine storm’ – an overreaction of the body’s immune system that can prove fatal.

Cytokine storm

Some peoples’ susceptibility to developing a cytokine storm may explain why some individuals are having a severe and sometimes fatal reaction to the Covid-19 virus whilst most of the population are only mildly affected.

Although there are many theories around why some people are more susceptible to developing the intense inflammatory response to covid-19 that is known as a cytokine storm, we do have some understanding of inflammation in the body and it’s causes.


Too many free radicals and not enough free radical scavenging antioxidants can lead to oxidative stress in the body.  This promotes cytokine production and triggers inflammation.  The dietary connection here comes in the form of antioxidants. We have long understood that antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc and selenium are vital for keeping inflammation in the body under control.  And a recent study has extrapolated the importance of nutrient status on immune response.

Published in the journal, Functional Foods in Health and Disease, the study concluded that there was a correlation between patients’ nutrient deficiency and their immune status. In addition, high food sensitivity is associated with a higher nutrient deficiency and a stronger oxidative stress response.

This new study is one of many which underlines the importance of ensuring a good supply of antioxidant nutrients from a healthy diet containing a wide variety of plant foods in order to ensure optimal nutritional status and immune function.

Try and ensure you at least get your government endorsed 5-a-Day, but better still, look at the emerging research around gut health and immune status and challenge yourself to consume 30 different plant foods every week.

Find out more about your diet and your potential inflammation and antioxidant capacity. Visit to arrange your test.

You can read more on this topic here…
A randomized observational analysis examining the correlation between patients’ food sensitivities, micronutrient deficiencies, oxidative stress response and immune redox status.

Roz Witney

Author Roz Witney

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