13 Jan

New Year’s Resolution and COVID-19

By Dr. Tim Arnott — As we enter a new year, it is a time we begin to think about our life and what changes we would like to make. According to Statista’s Global Consumer Survey, 39 percent of U.S. adults will make a New Year’s resolution for 2022.[i] The top three this year in descending order are to exercise more, eat healthier, and lose weight.[ii] Given the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, these three are well-advised.  Patients significantly overweight are at higher risk of mortality from COVID-19 infection.[iii] This higher risk may stem from a fundamental mechanism of infection.[iv] COVID utilizes the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)-2 receptor for entry into our cells.

Therefore, too much of this receptor in the body can facilitate COVID entry, increasing severity.  The COVID virus has a particular attraction for lung cells. Besides the lung cells, this specialized receptor is expressed in many cell types, including fat cells, kidney cells, and heart cells.

Individuals with obesity (i.e., BMI >30) have more of these “COVID access” receptors present, which may support greater virus replication and infection. This may be one reason for worse outcomes of COVID infection in people with obesity.[v] Thus, losing weight is a reasonable approach to avoid the common severe outcomes of COVID infection.

At least one key factor distinguishes individuals who are significantly overweight and/or have diabetes from individuals without such conditions; namely, greater circulating levels of glucose (higher blood sugar levels)[vi]. This factor increases the ACE (COVID-friendly) receptor expression or activity, which in turn, may worsen the severity of COVID infection. Again, high blood glucose alone can increase the expression and enzymatic activity of ACE receptors in cells.[vii] As a result, a resolution to achieve weight loss, which will lower blood sugar, makes perfect sense at the start of 2022. The question is, how?  It’s a simple math formula–calories eaten must be fewer than calories burned.  Therefore, moving muscles more is part of the solution. Consider prayer walking first thing each morning. If you walk at a brisk pace, depending upon your weight, you could burn off 100-200 calories.[viii] That’s 500 to 1000 calories a week, assuming you walk five days a week, or 2000 to 4000 calories burned every month. Thus, your weight would drop one pound a month, 12 pounds a year.  If you want to double that, simply walk one hour at a brisk pace five days a week. Then, you’d be down 25 pounds a year. That is enough weight loss to reverse diabetes in a majority of patients who are still able to make insulin, and if 25 pounds didn’t quite reverse it, losing 50 pounds likely would.[ix] Considering that overweight and/or diabetes are associated with severe COVID disease, hospitalization, and death, this kind of weight loss could be lifesaving.

Another very powerful way to reduce blood glucose levels is to walk after every meal.  Every minute walked immediately after a meal reduces your blood glucose 1-3 points. Decreasing the amount of circulating insulin and going a long way to lose significant weight could make a lifesaving difference.

Now, having said the above, you could easily wipe out any calories burned walking just by eating more. Thus, adjusting the diet is also key to successful long-term weight loss. It’s actually a simple exercise to take in fewer calories. Cooked whole grains, beans, and legumes, and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are 80 percent water and about 10 percent fiber.[x] Thus, they are very low in calories, and you can actually eat more volume and still lose weight by choosing these foods.[xi] The foods rich in calories are easy to spot. They are found in packages (i.e., boxes, bags, cans) with a long list of ingredients. You don’t have to read the list–just put back on the shelf any food with more than one ingredient. Further, the only other category of food rich in calories is animal products, including meat, poultry, milk, eggs, yogurt, butter, ice cream, and cheese. Limiting such foods to 10 percent of total calories or less is money in the bank toward long-term weight loss and greater protection against COVID. Fortunately, there are great unsweetened dairy substitutes to fill in the gaps, and choosing savory beans poured over well-cooked, soft, moist whole grains with a plant-based, oil-free sauce is a great low-calorie entrée.

So, go ahead. Make those New Year’s resolutions and enjoy better protection against COVID at the same time, not to mention a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and cancer. Now, we understand the above changes are not easy and because of that, many fail to make lasting lifestyle changes.  Understanding the increased protection against COVID and improved quality of life will help keep one motivated.  Further, having outside help also makes a difference. Rocky Mountain Lifestyle Center was established to support anyone wanting to improve health through lifestyle change, so take advantage of our MD consultations, cooking school, coaching, or health classes by calling (303) 282-3676 anytime.

In summary, God’s health remedies are so wise, they improve multiple conditions at the same time.  His whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet has transformed the health of thousands. No wonder He pronounced His fuel of choice for man, “Very Good”.[xii]

Tim Arnott MD  is a Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine physician and is the medical director of Rocky Mountain Lifestyle Center; photo by iStock

[i] http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/AASFCfW?ocid=se

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Nutr Diabetes. 2020; 10: 30.

[iv] ibid

[v] ibid

[vi] Nutr Diabetes. 2020; 10: 30.

[vii] ibid

[viii] https://caloriesburnedhq.com/

[ix] Kelly J. Foundations of Lifestyle Medicine Board Review Manual, 3rd Edition.

[x] Analysis based Food Processor software (https://esha.com/products/food-processor/)

[xi] Greger M. How Not to Diet. Flatiron Books: NY, NY, ©2019.

[xii] Genesis 1:31. The Holy Bible. NKJV.

04 Aug

Become a Virus Fighter: Learn how to increase your Natural Killer Cells

By Tim Arnott M.D. — Natural Killer (NK) cells are a type of white blood cell with packets filled with enzymes that can kill cancer cells or cells infected with a virus, including the SARs-CoV-2 virus. Preliminary studies in COVID-19 patients with severe disease suggest a decrease in natural killer cell numbers, resulting in decreased removal of virus-infected cells, and unchecked increase of tissue-damaging inflammation.[1]

Severe complications of COVID-19 are more common in elderly patients and patients with heart and blood vessel diseases and diabetes. NK cell functions are blunted in all these patient groups.  Also, the dangerous cytokine storm is more common in these patients, as their unhealthy NK cells cannot modulate the immune response properly.[2]

Cytokine storm involves an abnormal exaggerated immune response that causes collateral damage greater than the immediate benefit of the immune response.[3] Healthy NK cells are needed to prevent the cytokine storm. NK cells working properly clear the COVID virus-infected cells more quickly and efficiently, helping to prevent the cytokine storm.[4]

The good news is that there are things we can do to improve NK cell function and increase their numbers. “Pure air, sunlight, temperance, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in Divine power are the true remedies.”[5]  Amazingly, science is demonstrating these remedies improve NK cell function and number.

Consider pure air. We understood as early as 1905 “there are life-giving properties in the balsam of the pine, in the fragrance of the cedar and the fir.”[6]  Recently, scientists have discovered that pine trees release chemicals, called Phytoncides, which increase NK cell activity. For example, alpha-pinene, released by the pine tree, more than doubled NK cell activity against leukemia cells.[7]

Thus, to improve NK cell activity, spend more time outside. Phytoncides from Cypress, White Cedar, and Eucalyptus trees had the same effect on NK cell activity.[8]  Truly, there’s life in a tree.[9] God wants to feed our bodies in the air we breathe as well as the food we eat! So, take a walk outside every day. Open the windows at night. Air out the house first thing in the morning. You’ll be better prepared to fight COVID.

Sunlight also improves NK cell function. Sunlight “dramatically stimulates the expression of potent bacteria and virus-fighting proteins, which exist in … natural killer cells”.[10] Additionally, “(vitamin D) acts as an immune system modulator”, preventing the cytokine storm.[11] So, again, be outside in the sunlight and take a daily vitamin D supplement (at least 1000 IU daily) to help protect against viral infections, including COIVD.

Temperance likewise improves your ability to clear COVID. Research shows chronic alcohol consumption decreases NK cell number and function.[12]

Another way to boost NK cell function is to get your rest. Sleeping less than 7 hours a night was associated with 30% lower natural killer cell activity compared to those sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night.[13]  Thus, proper rest may likewise improve your ability to clear a COVID infection.

Get some exercise. Interestingly enough, prolonged intensive exercise (i.e., marathon) impairs NK-cell function and blunts the immune response.[14] On the other hand, moderate-intensity exercise (i.e., walking) “has a large and positive effect on the level of NK cell cytolytic activity.”[15] So, walk, walk, walk. Gradually increase your walking time up to 30 to 60 minutes a day. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

And, of course, diet greatly affects our health. Can the food we eat improve NK cell numbers or function? Most definitely. We have about 2 billion NK cells circulating in our blood.[16] To test the affect of diet on NK cells, athletes ate 1 ½ cups of blueberries for six weeks. Then, they ran for 2.5 hours. NK cell counts “were almost doubled

(~4 billion) in the blueberry group prior to exercise, and this increase was maintained throughout the exercise.”[17]  Similarly, NK cytotoxic activity was twice as high in vegetarians than omnivore control subjects.[18]  Additionally, consuming the spice cardamom dramatically increased NK cell cytotoxicity against lymphoma cells. Thus, it makes sense, in the fight against COVID, to choose a diet of “(whole) grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables … the diet chosen for us by our Creator.”[19]

When adopting a whole food plant-based diet, remember to take vitamin B12 daily, and chew it. Methyl-cobalamin is preferred. Why?  Because “suppressed NK cell activity was noted in patients (B12 deficient) compared with control subjects”, but improved after methyl-B12 treatment.[20]

Drinking mineral water also improved natural killer cell activities compared to tap water.[21] Clearly, minerals are important for optimal NK cell function, but minerals can also be obtained from seeds, beans, greens, and nuts. Thus, enjoy six to eight glasses of purified water daily between meals. Check with your physician first if you have heart failure or kidney disease.

Finally, NK cell activity is impaired in those who have suffered a major loss, for example, in recently widowed women with clinical depression, compared with those without major depression.[22]  Thus, we would encourage all to seek rest, hope, and comfort in Christ.  He has promised, “For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”[23] Thus, take time to come into His presence each morning and “pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us.”[24] Remember, “in His presence is fullness of joy…”[25]  Consider reading a chapter from one of the four gospels each morning with a prayer for the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

As you can see, there are many simple steps we can take to improve NK cell function and number, increasing our ability to successfully fight the SARs-CoV-2 virus and help avoid devastating tissue damage caused by cytokine storm.

–Tim Arnott M.D. is the Rocky Mountain Lifestyle Center physician; photo by UnSplash

This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment and/or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.

 

 

 

[1] Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Sep 1;21(17):6351.
[2] ibid
[3] N Engl J Med 2020; 383:2255-2273.
[4] Market M, (2020) Flattening the COVID-19 Curve With Natural Killer Cell Based Immunotherapies. Front. Immunol. 11:1512.
[5] White E.G. Ministry of Healing. Pacific Press Pub Assn:  Mountain View, CA, ©1905, p. 127.
[6] White E.G. Ministry of Healing. Pacific Press Pub Assn: Mountainview, CA, © 1905, p. 264.
[7] Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2006;28(2):319-33.
[8] ibid
[9] Deuteronomy 20:19. The Holy Bible. New King James Version. © 1982 Thomas Nelson.
[10] Epidemiol Infect. 2006 Dec;134(6):1129-40.
[11] ibid
[12] J Leukoc Biol. 2017 Apr;101(4):1015-1027.
[13] Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Oct;25(7):1367-75.
[14] Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015;135:355-80.
[15] Sports Med. 2021; 51(3): 519–530.
[16] Blood. (2008) 112: 461-469.
[17] Appl Physiol Nutr Metab Vol 36, 2011.
[18] Nutr Cancer. 1989;12(3):271-8.
[19] White E.G. Ministry of Healing. Pacific Press Pub Assn:  Mountain View, CA, ©1905, p. 296
[20] Clin Exp Immunol. 1999 Apr;116(1):28-32.
[21] Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2011 May 27;409(1):40-5.
[22] Psychiatry Res. 1994 Apr;52(1):1-10.
[23] Isaiah 54:5. The Holy Bible. New King James Version®. © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
[24] Psalm 62:8. The Holy Bible. New King James Version®. © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
[25] Psalm 16:11. The Holy Bible. New King James Version®. © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.