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science nutrition blog

science nutrition <strong>blog</strong>

 By Steve Blechman


Like I said in my past articles, a healthy diet and lifestyle changes such as following the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet along with exercise has been shown in the scientific research to safely prevent and lower the risk of obesity, the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke caused by blood clots. The Mediterranean diet is the healthiest diet, based on the latest scientific research. The Mediterranean diet, an anti-inflammatory diet (restricted saturating animal fats and arachidonic acid), has great potential to naturally help tame down the uncontrolled hyperimmune response, which causes the potentially deadly cytokine storm and severe inflammation. The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to lower c-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of inflammation in the body; a simple blood test can be ordered by your physician to measure CRP. The cytokine storm not only damages the lungs but also the heart, cardiovascular system, blood vessels, liver, pancreas, intestines, kidneys and brain. And it causes severe blood clots all over the body, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism. The anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet is rich in fish and seafood (containing omega-3 fats), extra-virgin olive oil, nuts (rich in monounsaturated fats) and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and red wine, and berries rich in polyphenols.

Adequate sleep, 7-8 hours daily, and proper nutrition is important for a healthy immune function, which includes fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C, polyphenols, plus vitamin D and important minerals zinc and selenium.



As I mentioned above, eating a healthy nutritious diet such as the Mediterranean Diet and getting proper sleep and exercise are the best ways to support healthy immune function.

There currently are no products or dietary supplements that are scientifically proven to treat or prevent the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Still, some unethical supplement companies have promoted fraudulent cures and claims and treatments not based on good science, such as colloidal silver products for coronavirus. The FDA has cautioned that colloidal silver is not a safe or effective for any disease or condition! By law, companies are not allowed on their product labels or ads to make claims intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Below is a review of what I believe to be the top immune health supplements to help support function of the immune system and battle the Cytokine Storm, based on the latest scientific research.


Zinc is required for a healthy immune function. Zinc also has anti-viral properties in humans.  It has been reported that zinc supplement can lower inflammation. A randomized double-blind placebo trial found that in 40 healthy adults’ supplementation with 45mg of zinc daily increased blood levels of zinc and lowered the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 and c-reactive protein (American Journal Clinical Nutrition, June 2010.) Research has found that “zinc mediates anti-inflammatory and antioxidant pathways” (Clinical Nutrition, May 2020). Most recently, on May 11 reported on a promising new study at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, which found that zinc combined with hydroxychloroquine “could create a more effective treatment.” Researchers noted: “Records of 900 COVID-19 patients were reviewed in the analysis, with roughly half given zinc sulphate along with hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin. The other half only received hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Those receiving the triple drug combination had a 1.5 times greater likelihood of recovering to be discharged, and were 44% less likely to die, compared to the double-drug-combination.” Senior investigator of this study, Joseph Rahiman said, “that it may be that when used to treat coronavirus patients, it is the zinc that does the heavy lifting and is the primary substance attacking the pathogen.” More randomized clinical trials are needed to confirm these results. Also, the concerns of hydroxychloroquine safety in certain individuals. Hydroxychloroquine and/or azithromycin should not be taken unless prescribed by your physician. Hydroxychloroquine and its combo has not been proven to cure, treat or prevent Covid-19 in a randomized controlled trial, or published in a peer reviewed journal at this time.


Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency can weaken the immune system. Many Americans are low in vitamin D. 2000 IUs of vitamin D orally is safe and required to raise blood levels. A new study (Aging, Clinical Experimental Research, May 6, 2020) reported an association and low average levels of vitamin D and high numbers of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates across 20 European countries. Research in the past has reported an association between low levels of vitamin D and respiratory tract infections. Vitamin D has also been shown to lower inflammation and modulate phagocytic-producing white blood cells such as macrophages, neutrophils and other inflammatory cytokines and interleukin-6 (Medical Hypothesis, April 23, 2020).


Research has shown over the years that vitamin C, polyphenols, selenium and N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) are important antioxidants in the body that can lower inflammation. When a virus particle enters your body through your nose, mouth or eyes, into your lungs, the immune system recognizes the virus and sends immune-signaling molecules called cytokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Normally these cytokines play a beneficial role by activating our innate immune response and certain white blood cells called macrophage, neutrophils and natural killer cells that destroy and kill certain dangerous pathogens, bacteria and viruses. These white blood cells are like killer, phagocytic Pac-Men that release reactive oxygen species (ROS) free radicals and kill these bacteria and viruses at the same time these ROS free radical species damage normal tissues and can cause inflammation and cell death. So these white blood cells in fact are a two-edged sword – they kill dangerous viruses and bacteria, or they can go haywire, causing severe inflammation, cell damage and organ failure. Antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C, polyphenols, selenium, and N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) have been shown in the scientific literature to be potent scavengers of ROS and free radicals, helping to lower inflammation in the lungs and other organs and tissues.

NAC is clearly the most effective and important antioxidant and precursor of glutathione in the lungs! I was the first to launch glutathione and NAC as dietary supplements to the American market over 20 years ago, during my 27 years as Head of Product Development for Twin Laboratories, Inc. (Twinlab). Research has shown that oral glutathione supplements can raise liver glutathione levels in humans. Research has shown that NAC (1200mg-1800mg daily) is much more cost effective and efficacious than oral glutathione for raising glutathione in the lungs, liver and other tissues, and therefore the preferred dietary supplement! NAC is best taken with vitamin C as a dietary supplement (1000mg-2000mg) because it prevents the oxidation of NAC and acts as a reducing agent enhancing the stability and function of NAC.

It was recently reported in the April 21, in the journal Respiratory Medicine Case Reports, that a 48-year-old woman with COVID 19 pneumonia at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, NY made an amazing recovery with oral and intravenous glutathione plus oral N-Acetyl Cysteine. This was very encouraging, but remember this is only a case report and does not prove cause and effect! Further randomized controlled trials are needed and published in peer-reviewed journals to prove safety and efficacy in COVID-19 patients.

Polyphenols such as quercetin and grape skins and grapeseed extract are effective and work synergistically with vitamin C as an antioxidant, having anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Quercetin appears to prevent viruses from entry in the cell thereby reducing viral load (Viruses, December 2016). Polyphenols also function as prebiotics and help promote healthy bacteria flora. Curcumin, a polyphenol found in the spice turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties. There are no studies that demonstrate curcumin prevents or reduces viral infections in humans. One concern is that curcumin may increase the expression of the ACE2 receptor that makes it easier for the virus to enter the cell. This is controversial, and more research is needed to clarify this.

The mineral selenium is also an important antioxidant that functions as a co-factor and synthesis of glutathione in the body. It was most recently reported by ScienceDaily on April 29 and published in the April 28 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that an “international team of researchers, led by Professor Margaret Rayman at the University of Surrey, has identified a link between COVID-19 cure rate and regional selenium status in China.” This was a very exciting finding! Research has shown that selenium has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. More studies are needed to determine if selenium deficiency can increase the risk of COVID-19. 50 mcg-200mcg of selenium is considered safe daily as a dietary supplement.

In conclusion, there is currently no diet or dietary supplement that has proven to treat or cure COVID-19! More well-designed randomized controlled trials are needed to establish safety and efficacy. We already know people over age of 65 are at the highest risk of dying from coronavirus. People who are overweight and obese and have pre-existing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension are also at greater risk. A healthy diet and lifestyle changes, such as following the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet along with exercise, has been shown in the scientific research to safely prevent and lower the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

The obesity epidemic is real and upon us – about 4 in 10 Americans are obese! Research has shown that obesity and eating an unhealthy diet can increase inflammation and exasperate the cytokine storm! The Mediterranean anti-inflammatory diet combined with the top 5 immune health supplements reviewed in this article may naturally tame the uncontrolled hyperimmune response from the cytokine storm.  Arachidonic acid a polyunsaturated fatty acid and palmitic acid, a saturated fat, can increase the inflammatory cascade and is linked to a high risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. Food sources of arachidonic acid are found in beef, poultry, pork, butter, cream and egg yolks. The anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet that I am advocating in this article is rich in omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fats, polyphenols, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and low in animal and saturated fats. 

Bottom line: Eating healthy and improving our metabolic health is essential, along with proper exercise and sleep. 

©Copyright Advanced Research Media

©Reprinted with permission from Advanced Research Media, Inc.


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