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Eating During the Coronavirus Lockdown

Summary:
Hilary Potkewitz’s March 23, 2020 Wall Street Journal article “How to Avoid Eating All Day While Coronavirus Keeps Us Working From Home” has at least two important points about how to eat during this COVID-19 lockdown. First, set time limits on eating. Nutrition director Elisabetta Politi, whom Hilary interviewed, gives the weak—but still very helpful—version of this. She says: Make mealtimes very clear, so everybody knows there is a time to eat and time to not eatDietition Kristin Kirkpatrick gives a stronger version. Hilary gives this account of that part of the interview:“Now is a great time to try out some periodic fasting techniques,” she says. Also

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Eating During the Coronavirus Lockdown

Hilary Potkewitz’s March 23, 2020 Wall Street Journal article “How to Avoid Eating All Day While Coronavirus Keeps Us Working From Home” has at least two important points about how to eat during this COVID-19 lockdown.

First, set time limits on eating. Nutrition director Elisabetta Politi, whom Hilary interviewed, gives the weak—but still very helpful—version of this. She says:

Make mealtimes very clear, so everybody knows there is a time to eat and time to not eat

Dietition Kristin Kirkpatrick gives a stronger version. Hilary gives this account of that part of the interview:

“Now is a great time to try out some periodic fasting techniques,” she says. Also called time-restricted eating, the practice involves limiting food consumption to an eight- to 12-hour daytime window. Ms. Kirkpatrick doesn’t eat breakfast until 11 a.m., and finishes family dinner by 7 p.m., she says. Someone else may feel more comfortable with a 10-hour food window, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Such changes can lower the appetite, she says, and studies show that people tend to consume fewer calories when they have fewer eating hours in the day. She cautions that periodic fasting should only be considered by healthy adults, and isn’t appropriate for anyone who is diabetic, pregnant or has a history of disordered eating.

In relation to that last paragraph, I should say that fasting is exactly the treatment for Type II Diabetes that my hero Jason Fung uses for his patients. (On Jason Fung, see my post “Obesity Is Always and Everywhere an Insulin Phenomenon.”) Note however that as a treatment for diabetes, fasting needs close supervision by a doctor because the appropriate level of insulin and other medications can be dramatically different when one is fasting. (More generally, anyone taking medications needs to be aware of the big danger that fasting can seriously change the appropriate dosage of a wide variety of medications—a reason to let your doctor know about your plans to try fasting.)

Note that, in addition to time limits on eating helping you to avoid weight gain while cooped up at home near the refrigerator, substantial periods of eating nothing are when your body does its renewal processes. In particular, fasting is when substandard cells of your body are disassembled for their parts and replaced by new cells. If you have to face the novel coronavirus, you are probably better off doing so with new high quality cells rather than old substandard cells.

Second, think about adding spices that might have antiviral properties. I don’t want to exaggerate how big a difference this will make, but there is so little downside to eating some extra spices over the next few months, it is worth a try. Hilary writes this based on her interview with Mark Hyman, medical director of the UltraWellness Center:

 “People tend to forget about spices, and many of them have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral qualities,” Dr. Hyman says, putting garlic, onions, turmeric, ginger and oregano on his must-have list.

Since I read that, I have been taking a turmeric capsule every day, just in case, and thinking about dishes with garlic, onions, ginger, oregano and turmeric.

Googling “antiviral spices” yields many other lists of things to eat that just might help. Here is the top hit:

Eating During the Coronavirus Lockdown

Its list of antiviral herbs is:

  1. Oregano

  2. Sage

  3. Basil

  4. Fennel

  5. Garlic

  6. Lemon Balm

  7. Peppermint

  8. Rosemary

  9. Echinacea

  10. Sambucus

  11. Licorice

  12. Astragalus

  13. Ginger

  14. Ginseng

  15. Dandelion

There are many more hits for “antiviral spices” that you can explore! Again, I don’t want to exaggerate how big an effect any of these will have, but in the current situation, the benefit/cost ratio seems favorable. And the list of candidates is long enough, you probably have some in your possession already.

Beyond these two tips, I’m willing to bet that most things that improve your chances of avoiding heart disease, strokes and cancer are likely to be helpful in giving you more resistant so the novel coronavirus as well. Chronic diseases often result from a derangement from how our bodies were designed to function. On average, bodily derangements probably make us less resistant to infectious diseases as well. So it is worth making a special effort during this pandemic to eat in a way that you would generally consider healthy anyway.

For annotated links to other posts on diet and health, see:

Miles Kimball
Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

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