SCOFFING sauerkraut, coleslaw and kimchi could protect against Covid death, scientists claim.
Experts think foods containing raw and fermented cabbage may be beneficial against the bug, by slashing levels of a compound that helps the virus infect the body.
European researchers say it may explain why countries like Germany and South Korea – where it forms a key part of their diet – have had lower fatalities during the pandemic.
Other foods, such as fermented milks, could also protect against Covid in the same way.
Scientists say nations that consume lots of yoghurt or kefir – such as Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey – have also experienced low death rates.
So confident is the professor who led the 25-strong team of researchers, that he has changed his diet to include plenty of cabbage following his findings.
Dr Jean Bousquet, Honorary Professor of Pulmonary Medicine at Montpellier University, France, and a former WHO expert, said: “Little attention has been given to the spread and severity of the virus, and regional differences in diet, but diet changes may be of great benefit.
“Nutrition may play a role in the immune defence against Covid-19 and may explain some of the differences seen in Covid-19 across Europe.
I have now changed my diet, and it includes raw cabbage three times a week, sauerkraut once a week, and kefir at breakfast and pickled vegetables.
-Dr Jean BousquetHonorary Professor Of Pulmonary Medicine At Montpellier University,
“Understanding these differences, and protective factors, like diet, but many others too, is of paramount importance, and may eventually help to control these epidemics.
“I have now changed my diet, and it includes raw cabbage three times a week, sauerkraut once a week, and kefir at breakfast and pickled vegetables.”
The study, reported in the journal Clinical and Translational Allergy, looked at virus death rates and national dietary differences.
It found Germany has significantly lower mortality, as did Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, the Baltic States and Finland.
Bulgaria, Greece and Romania also had reduced death rates, whereas fatalities were much higher Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and the UK.
According the researchers, diet may be a key difference between nations. In those with a low mortality, the locals consume high levels of fermented food, such as sauerkraut or yoghurt drink kefir.
These foods are abundant in antioxidants, and are thought to reduce levels of a key enzyme called ACE2.
It is attached to cells in the lungs and is used as by Covid as an entry point into the body.
Scientists think fermented foods and cabbage, may be acting as natural virus blockers by reducing ACE2 readings.
Fermented foods have potent antioxidant activity and can protect against severe Covid-19.
– Dr Jean BouquetHonorary Professor Of Pulmonary Medicine At Montpellier University
Experts said there are even big differences within some countries too – in Switzerland, the French and Italian speaking regions had far bigger death rates than the German-speaking ones.
Dr Bousquet, former Chairman of the WHO Global Alliance against Chronic Respiratory Diseases, said: “We found that these foods may reduce ACE2 activity or are antioxidants.
“Fermented milk, for example, is recognised as a natural ACE inhibitor.
“Coronavirus binds to ACE2 that induces oxidative stress, pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic effects.
“Fermented foods have potent antioxidant activity and can protect against severe Covid-19.”
Jaydip Ray, Professor of Otology and Neurotology at Sheffield University, said: “This is a very interesting suggestion.
“We are still discovering more and more about this novel virus.
“Any observed association from large population data with potential to reduce its devastating impact is worth considering and exploring further.”