Evidence from new and recent studies identifies extra virgin olive oil as a key food item that could help mitigate the effects of COVID-19.
Along with other popular foods in the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil lowers cytokine levels, reducing symptoms and severity among COVID-19 patients.
Oleuropein has shown potential antiviral activity against the respiratory syncytial virus, a common upper respiratory infection virus.
While cytokines play a crucial and beneficial role in supporting the immune system, too many produce a cytokine storm.
Also known as hypercytokinemia, this immune system overreaction has a detrimental impact on people suffering from COVID-19 and has been identified as one of the causes of death among COVID-19 patients.
Cytokine storms reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood, cause fluid build-up in the lungs, create breathing difficulty and lead to other symptoms typically experienced due to the virus.
Along with reducing symptoms from the disease, olive oil consumption also plays a role in prevention. As with all viruses, a healthy immune system makes people less susceptible to contract one.
“Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, contains monounsaturated fatty acids and several polyphenols including oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol,” said Ahmad Alkhatib, a researcher at Teesside University Center for Public Health. “These have several antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, which can be linked with significant antiviral and antibacterial potential.”
“Oleuropein has shown potential antiviral activity against the respiratory syncytial virus, a common upper respiratory infection virus,” he added. “This effect has been attributed to the antioxidative property of elenolic acid, the main fragment in oleuropein.”
Other foods in the Mediterranean diet also have antiviral properties, including fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, herbs and seeds. They are known as functional foods due to their nutraceuticals, including polyphenols, terpenoids, flavonoids, alkaloids, sterols, pigments and unsaturated fatty acids.
Experts also note that physical exercise is another important factor in supporting the immune system and reducing viral risk. Exercise and nutritious food also enhance sleep quality and regulate sleep patterns, strengthening the immune system.
Incorporating moderate-intensity exercise and following the Mediterranean diet could mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 and other viruses.