But definitely don’t plan a diet around it just yet.

By Tim Nelson
July 23, 2020
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Right about now, the world is essentially waiting for some sort of viable vaccine that could make it possible to protect against Covid-19 and go back to whatever “normal” meant before all of this. In the meantime, we’re all left looking for answers that might help us mitigate the risks of the pandemic, clinging to any shred of hope or bit of scientific (or in too many cases, unscientific) evidence that can point us in the right direction.

Well, if early evidence from one pre-print study ends up standing up to the scrutiny of a peer review, the consumption of pickled or fermented cabbage a la sauerkraut or kimchi could play a role in mitigating the mortality rate from Covid-19.

The study, which relies on a data analysis rather than any kind of laboratory experimentation, looks at Covid-19 mortality rates throughout Germany, postulating that variations in local diets could play a role in rates of the disease.

In essence, certain diets richer in antioxidants and lower in saturated fats might play a role in lowering levels of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE2). This converts into ACE, which in turn is “the main entry point for [Sars-CoV-2] into cells.” Theoretically, people in the northeastern parts of Germany, which experienced a lower per-capita mortality rate than other regions of the country, may have benefitted from a diet rich in “foods with potent antioxidant or anti ACE activity—like fermented or uncooked cabbage.” So, sauerkraut and kimchi.

At this stage, there’s reason to take all of this information with a massive grain of salt. First and foremost, the study is still awaiting peer review to confirm that any of the data it collected is in keeping with the scientific method. Secondly, it’s conclusions draw on macro-level data to report a correlation between regions that might have more ACE-inhibting foods like fermented cabbage in their diet and lower mortality rates.

When analyzing a pandemic, there are a huge number of variables ranging from population density to local government responses to healthcare access that could cause variations in mortality rate even within the same country. This sort of research can help other epidemiologists hone in on further areas of study, but it certainly shouldn’t be treated as gospel or any kind of empirically sound medical advice.

Still, if you’ve completely run out of ways to keep yourself sane and entertained, you could do worse than attempting to make your own kimchi at this point. Even if it won’t necessarily keep you safe during the current pandemic, it can definitely broaden your culinary horizons and instill a sense of much-needed accomplishment in the kitchen. In the meantime, wear a damn mask.

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