There are foods that can transform our body into an efficient and safe machine. Protect it, if necessary, even from viruses such as Covid, which in some people manages to infiltrate the immune system and in others, instead, stops at the door, blocked by a forest of antibodies. The novelty is that certain foods can activate those antibodies.
To state this, albeit with some caution, is an international US study published in Frontiers in Immunology. The authors started with a question: why do some people get seriously ill with Covid, while others have no symptoms? They identified the answer within our body.
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Protein makes a difference
The fact is, according to the researchers, that the solution “may lie in the proteins our immune system has been exposed to previously.” And in this regard, they found that common foods, vaccines, bacteria and viruses have the ability to activate the human immune system making it capable of fighting back the virus. Because these are agents that contain proteins similar to those found in SARS-CoV-2, and because exposure to these proteins can train the immune system to give the right response when it meets the “enemy”. An important conclusion, able to pave the way for new immunotherapies or vaccines that increase immunity against Covid.
An alien virus, or not
When the SARS-CoV-2 virus first appeared nearly three years ago, it was new, and the pandemic made it look like an alien invader. But this is not the case, because it actually shares its characteristics with many existing biological molecules. For example, the study authors explain, “as a member of the coronavirus family, SARS-CoV-2 has many similar traits to other viruses.” And they add: “Proteins found in bacteria, human cells, vaccines and even food may share some similarities.” In this research, therefore, the authors hypothesized that “the similarities between SARS-CoV-2 and other common proteins may influence our susceptibility to the virus”.
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What happens if a pathogen attacks us
The mechanism that is activated when our body is attacked by a pathogen, such as a virus or bacterium, initiates an immune response involving antibodies. In practice, these immune proteins attach to specific parts of the pathogen and contribute to its destruction. After the initial infection subsides, white blood cells called memory T and B cells will retain a memory of the pathogen, or at least some parts of its structure. Cells that, should they ever encounter it again, would be ready to trigger a rapid immune response.
The antibody cross-reaction test
Ultimately, the researchers wondered if the “immune memory” to proteins that each of us encountered in our past may be at the basis of immune resistance and reduced susceptibility to Covid. To answer this, the team of researchers analyzed the possibility that antibodies targeting proteins in SARS-CoV-2 could also bind to those of other agents, notably 180 different proteins from foods, two different ones. vaccines and 15 bacterial and viral proteins.
How did the experiment end? The antibodies reacted more powerfully in the case of a common intestinal bacterium called Enterococcus faecalis, but also against a vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Most importantly, the immune system response was enhanced against proteins found in common foods, including broccoli, roasted almonds, pork, cashews, milk, soy and pineapple.
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Eat to be immune
Building immunity to the virus through the intake of certain foods, however, according to experts it is quite unlikely. Because, it must be said, that immunity against a type of food, for example, is typically characterized by a food allergy. “Usually only people with leaky gut can produce antibodies against food – explained the doctor. Aristo Vodjani of Cyrex Laboratories in Arizona, lead author of the study -. So I wouldn’t recommend eating foods that make the intestines leaky, as that would create other problems. “
“‘Shield’ foods do not replace vaccines”
Precisely for this reason, the researchers point out that, “although these agents have the potential to provide some protection from SARS-CoV-2, they should not be considered as a substitute for vaccines.” Furthermore, they believe further testing is needed to confirm that these proteins do indeed confer some protection and, if so, whether this is mediated by a short-lived antibody response or a long-term memory cellular response. Results that could shed light on variable responses to Covid infection, lead to more effective treatments or better vaccines against the virus, or even assess an individual’s susceptibility to the virus even before they are infected.
Caccialanza: “A question of style of nutrition”
“It is not a question of individual elements, but of the overall style of nutrition”, he confirms Riccardo Caccialanzadirector of the complex operational unit Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition at the Policlinico San Matteo in Pavia, as well as co-author of a multicentre study on the importance of adequate nutritional support for patients hospitalized for severe forms of Covid.
“We are talking about food patterns (the set of foods that define a diet) – explains Caccialanza -. This helps our body to strengthen the immune system and defend itself against external agents. The ideal is to focus on fresh and quality food. vegetables, fibers and vitamins help in particular. But the range is wide, we must start from the macro: from proteins, to good quality fats, to mineral salts “.
Another aspect to be taken care of, according to Caccialanza, “is the quality of the food: if we choose meat, it is not a hamburger, but Chianina from animals that graze free”. In addition, he adds, “reducing contaminants in vegetables and fruit can help.” This from the point of view, concludes Caccialanza, that “it is not the Covid virus that is the target of food, but some foods open the way to general immunity which helps to counteract its advance”.