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  • Welcome to the Exam Room podcast brought to you

  • by the Physicians Committee.

  • Hi, I'm The Weight Loss Champion Chuck Carroll here

  • at the International Conference on Nutrition and Medicine.

  • And today, I want to talk to somebody who has really,

  • over the past two and a half years, been taking a close

  • look at the pandemic, COVID 19 and diet.

  • How does what it is

  • you're eating affect your risk, your outcomes of COVID 19?

  • This particular doctor has done more in the past

  • 25 years than you

  • or I probably will have done in a lifetime, many lifetimes.

  • As a matter of fact,

  • it's such an honor to be sitting here with Dr.

  • Sara Seidlemann.

  • Thank you so much for being here.

  • Thank you for having me.

  • I'm happy to be here.

  • I'm happy that you are here as well.

  • We still are very much in the throes of this pandemic.

  • Obviously, back in person return to normal more or less.

  • But you still look at the numbers.

  • Last I saw, we're still here in the U.S.

  • looking at roughly 100,000 cases every day.

  • That's a lot of people still getting sick.

  • What do we know about the connection between what it is

  • we are eating and COVID 19 and what we're seeing there?

  • Sure.

  • Well, I think we could take it back

  • even further to the relationship between nutrition

  • and infectious disease, which,

  • you know, anecdotally for hundreds of years,

  • we've seen this relationship between malnutrition

  • and risk of developing an infectious disease.

  • We would see this in times of war and times of famine, right?

  • When suddenly food supplies were cut off and

  • infectious disease disease would flourish.

  • Right.

  • So we've known that for

  • a long, long periods of time.

  • How many stories have we heard about that?

  • So there are parts of this that are obvious.

  • I think

  • the part that isn't so obvious is that as you move forward,

  • that as you take that into current times,

  • the way that we think about malnutrition

  • and historically has been in the under nourished.

  • Right, right.

  • Right.

  • There underfed undernourished and now we have the opposite.

  • We have the overfed,

  • but undernourished.

  • So, you know, according to the CDC, currently

  • a third of all Americans, children and adults are,

  • you know, have at least one basic nutrient deficiency.

  • The United States of America now, one.

  • Out of three.

  • One out of. Three in the U.S.. In the U.S..

  • And I love the way that you put it, overfed and undernourished.

  • That's such a foreign concept.

  • I think that a lot of times

  • people can go wrong thinking about, well, it's food.

  • If I just put something

  • in my belly, I'm going to be okay, right?

  • As long as I feel full

  • or put something in there, I'm getting everything I need.

  • Clearly, nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Clearly. So,

  • you know, we're we're in quite a state here

  • where very early on in the pandemic, we were seeing

  • the association between obesity, type two diabetes,

  • atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,

  • hypertension, increasing risk for COVID 19.

  • All of those illnesses are nutritionally driven illnesses.

  • Right.

  • You know, as a cardiologist

  • battling the primary type of heart disease,

  • which is atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,

  • this is almost entirely a nutritionally driven illness.

  • Right.

  • And so in retrospect, it seems kind of obvious

  • that nutrition would be very important in COVID risk,

  • because all these nutritionally related illnesses

  • put us at risk.

  • The study that I carried out, it was very

  • early in the pandemic.

  • We really needed to try to

  • get at health care workers that were exposed to the virus.

  • That was a challenge because

  • there weren't that many cases at the time that we launched it.

  • There were about 1.8

  • million cases globally at the time of its inception.

  • Yeah, less than that. Right.

  • And so we really focused on frontline health care workers.

  • We had to go bigger than the United States.

  • A lot of those cases were in Europe at the time.

  • And so we looked at five countries in Europe

  • as well as the U.S.

  • and we really had to use a large network of 1.5

  • million physicians in order to capture

  • some of those that were most at risk.

  • How did you reach 1.5 million?

  • I mean, that's that's that's the study, right?

  • That's an undertaking.

  • So I'll I like to think of it as a very

  • creative, kind of scrappy COVID story,

  • where it was a collaboration

  • between academics and the private sector.

  • So we approached a company called Survey Health Care.

  • Globally, they had this large network of physicians

  • in order to do market research.

  • And we said, Hey, would you ever consider letting us do

  • academic research with your population?

  • And they were amazing.

  • They were incredibly supportive.

  • Not only were they open to it, but they funded it.

  • So I'm you know, I'm so grateful to them for doing it.

  • And I'm grateful to the healthcare workers

  • who took the time out

  • from there,

  • from what they were doing, which is battling the pandemic.

  • Yeah, yeah.

  • To take part in this.

  • Do you think they took the time out to do that?

  • Because they knew

  • the importance of the data that was being accumulated?

  • I think

  • I think, you know, physicians in general and particularly

  • these physicians, I mean, they're true heroes.

  • You know, they we are always thinking about and

  • there's a certain,

  • you know, part of you that has to let yourself go

  • when you become a physician

  • because you're thinking about the greater good, right?

  • You're you've

  • you've committed yourself to helping people in general.

  • And and so there's

  • something that naturally, I think physicians, nurses,

  • physician assistants, you know, that health care workers

  • do because they believe in the greater good.

  • So what did the data kind of bore out here?

  • What were some of the things that you discovered?

  • Well, so there were there were some things that were obvious,

  • like more exposure to the virus

  • put you at risk for getting the virus.

  • And so

  • that's great because we saw things that we expected to see

  • greater access to PPE at the time

  • that we were doing this study, there were many physicians

  • who didn't have access to PPE and they were still showing up

  • to take care of patients.

  • So the better access that they had,

  • the more types of PPE that they had protected them.

  • And then we looked at lifestyle factors and what sleep

  • and stress were a big component here.

  • You know, the better rested,

  • the less work stress, personal stress

  • that they had, the better that they did.

  • And then diet was a big component as well. So

  • we looked at plant based eaters,

  • we looked at plant based

  • and pescatarian eaters, and we looked at the other

  • end of the spectrum,

  • which was the low carb, high protein diets.

  • And what we found was that plant based diets

  • were extremely protective from developing severe COVID.

  • So those health care workers that followed those types of

  • diets had a 73% lower odds of getting severe COVID.

  • When you compared those to the meat eaters,

  • the meat eaters had a four fold higher risk of

  • developing severe COVID.

  • The risk of becoming infected.

  • That was pretty much

  • a level playing field or a level across the board.

  • But once in fact, that the risk of severity

  • that's where there was the huge difference, right?

  • Yeah.