9 Ways to Boost Your Immune System to Fight the Coronavirus

The article is based on scientific evidence

The coronavirus pandemic is a wake-up call to boost your immune system naturally and take your health back into your own hands. Since there is no remedy, the body is fighting the coronavirus on its own without external help.

Due to advances in medicine, we live longer, but not better.

Accordingly, modern diseases such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer share the coronavirus-high-risk group. Furthermore, as the primary pre-existing conditions, they are the main reason why the coronavirus kills.

Disclaimer: This personal opinion is not medical advice. Since the content is based on 70+ scientific works and studies, it’s intended for informational and educational purposes only.

Coronavirus and Immune System

Advances in medicine and sanitation of the modern industrial era were a significant turning point in history. Before that change happened, infectious diseases were the leading natural cause of death.

Accordingly, life expectancy was 48 years for a woman and 46 years for a man due to childhood mortality in 1900 (Noymer 20051).

However, advances in the 20th century dramatically increased average life expectancy. Hence, the focus of public health slowly shifted to prevalent chronic diseases.

Correspondingly, dietary and lifestyle disorders might cause that children today have shorter life spans than their parents (Olshansky et al. 20052).

For example, these are insulin resistance and resulting diseases, such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, or type 2 diabetes.

But as we are currently witnessing through the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, humankind can still be vulnerable to infectious diseases too.

Nevertheless, it’s worth to compare leading death causes, overall health condition, and the coronavirus high-risk group.

As a result, insights can help us to boost our immune system naturally to fight the coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

These blue face masks can help the coronavirus high-risk group to protect a weakened immune system against the virus

High-Risk Group and Immunity

So far, public media has defined the coronavirus high-risk group as people aged 65 or older.

Accordingly, brand new coronavirus research states that people over 50 are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Moreover, the highest coronavirus death rate percentages occur in the age groups of 70 to 79 years, with 8% fatal cases, and 80 years or older, with a mortality rate of 15%.

Additionally, COVID-19 mortality rates are strongly dependent on a country’s medical infrastructure. With this in mind, an initial prognosis of overall coronavirus death rate percentages ranges from 1 to 2%.

As preliminary data suggests, coronavirus death rates are significantly higher for people over age 50, since the majority of deaths occurred within this group.

Conversely, young children’s role is limited to a medium of coronavirus transmission.

Furthermore, about half of the critical coronavirus patients affected by pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease, died (Cascella et al. 20203).

For this reason, we can draw a parallel between the coronavirus high-risk group and the high-risk group of overall leading death causes.

And that indicates a correlation between overall immune system strength and coronavirus immunity.

Why to Boost Your Immune System

Notably, the top two leading death causes in Western society are cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Moreover, for seven of the top ten death causes in high-income countries, high insulin levels induced by diet and lifestyle are a major underlying factor (WHO 20184).

Likewise, cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, is the number one cause of death in the United States.

As is the case for the coronavirus high-risk group, the risk of cardiovascular diseases rises dramatically for those who are 65 or older.

Accordingly, the majority of Americans has developed some form of cardiovascular disease by age 65 (AHA 20165).

Therefore, it’s vital to start boosting the immune system as soon as possible to inhibit immune function weakening over the years.

Likewise, people aged 50 or older account for almost 90% of new cancer cases.

Similar to the coronavirus, cancer’s overall impact on children’s health is rather insignificant, since they account for less than 1% of new cases (CRUK 20176).

Also, other diseases and top causes of deaths in the Western world show a clear link to aging as well as hyperinsulinemia.

In particular, type 2 diabetes (Orgel et al. 20147) and Alzheimer’s (Ferreira et al. 20188) are common examples.

With this in mind, aging-caused diseases already account for almost 90% of deaths in Western society (de Grey et al. 20079)

On the one hand, we have an obesity epidemic driving chronic conditions like heart diseases and cancer.

On the other hand, we are witnessing the coronavirus pandemic, despite the conventional belief that medicine has already conquered infectious diseases.

Nevertheless, modern diseases and coronavirus are sharing their high-risk groups. To better understand these parallels and why it is so significant, we have to define aging more precisely.

Strokes, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and the coronavirus share high-risk groups

Boosting Immunity Against Inflammation

Aging is the accumulation of cellular damage combined with the increasing inability to repair it. As a result, aging causes a low level of inflammation.

Since inflammation is so characteristic of aging, the term “inflammaging” was born.

Because repairing the damage of everyday life is essential for the survival of the species, the human body has tremendous self-healing powers.

But with age, these abilities to fight infections, kill cancer cells, or clear arteries diminish.

Moreover, oxidative stress, a state where free radicals overwork the body’s antioxidant system, is supported by aging.

But aging in terms of the human body’s self-healing power is not progressing independently.

As long-lived populations without access to processed foods around the world show us, dietary choices deeply impact your life span.

Moreover, lifestyle determines periods of energy and mental clarity. Hence, it can drastically improve your “health span.”

As I have to point out again, coronavirus death rate percentage is highest for people with pre-existing disorders actively promoted by diet and lifestyle choices such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Notably, over 50% of the U.S. population already shows a prediabetic state (Menke et al. 201510). Furthermore, more than 75% of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese (CDC 201211).

With this in mind, the U.S. and other western nations are facing severe issues.

Due to the quick aging of the immune system of an entire population, pre-existing conditions facilitating the coronavirus aren’t a matter of actual age anymore.

How to Boost Your Immune System Naturally

For stated reasons, the following steps are aimed at reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, improving your body’s self-healing powers, and boosting your immune system to fight the coronavirus as well as modern lifestyle diseases:

1. Start Intermittent Fasting to Strengthen Your Immune System

Since we are talking about damage repair mechanisms, let’s start with one awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: “Autophagy” or “self-eating.”

Fasting induces autophagy, a natural cleansing mechanism, replacing dysfunctional cell components with new ones, and removing toxins from your body. (Levine et al. 201712).

In light of coronavirus and the immune system, autophagy and fasting help to reduce infections, inflammation, cancer growth, and the aging process (Lee at al. 201913).

In like manner, fasting detox downregulates pro-inflammatory cytokines – small proteins supporting cancer.

Besides boosting human growth hormone (HGH), fasting counteracts free radicals accumulation in cells. Therefore, it prevents oxidative damage, which drives aging and most chronic diseases (Mercola 201714).

Consequently, religions utilized prolonged and intermittent fasting for weight loss and cure of ailments for centuries. But we forgot about these traditions.

Nevertheless, intermittent fasting gives your gut and immune system time to rest. Because the immune system doesn’t constantly address food antigens while fasting, it can support organ regeneration, such as gut mucosal lining.

Furthermore, short fasts activate stem cells to produce white blood cells, which boosts the immune system naturally.

Therefore, 16/8 intermittent fasting supports the immune system. In that case, don’t eat for 16 hours straight, followed by 8 hours of possible eating.

For example, you eat dinner at 8 PM and break the fast the next day at noon with lunch. Moreover, 72+ hours of prolonged fasting reset your immune system practically (Fung 201815).

Indeed, fasting means no juices or smoothies. Anything triggering an insulin response, such as diet soda, is a meal. Instead, stick to plain (mineral) water, tea, or coffee.

In essence, fasting saves time and money, boosts metabolic rate, helps to reverse insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes naturally (Furmli et al. 201816).

An empty white plate symbolizes that fasting can boost your immune system to fight the coronavirus

2. Lower Stress and Cortisol Levels Naturally

Chronic stress suppresses immune system strength. Notably, the stress hormone cortisol inhibits white blood cell production and activity. In detail, it promotes thymus gland shrinking – a crucial immune tissue.

Since high cortisol levels inhibit communication between immune system cells, their ability to fight off infections is impaired. Furthermore, cortisol can signal immune system cells to stop working. As a result, they die.

But shouldn’t cortisol affect the immune system to protect against infections and invaders like the coronavirus?

In short-term, acute stress stimulates immune function. But the effects of prolonged chronic stress on the immune system can be contradictory.

In the case of long-term stress, cortisol levels stay elevated. As a result of chronic stress, the immune system remains stimulated, which can lead to:

  • Breakdown of immune system cells
  • Impaired ability to fight off viruses
  • Attacking the body’s own cells

In short, stress can weaken your immune system and promote autoimmune diseases (Talbott 200717).

Notably, lifestyle often chronically stimulates the immune system via cortisol, causing inflammation, disease, and infections (Jefferies 199118).

In light of coronavirus and the immune system, developing upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) strongly correlates with chronic stress (Fondell et al. 201119).

Hence, it’s essential to lower cortisol levels naturally, especially for the coronavirus high-risk group.

Furthermore, long-term stress can cause yeast infections through high cortisol levels (Williams et al. 198320).

In the same fashion, chronic stress reduces your immune system’s natural killer cells. Natural killer cells’ function is to identify cancer cells and viruses (Witek-Janusek et al. 200721).

The most effective methods to lower cortisol levels naturally to boost your immune system are sufficient sleep (8-9 hours) and exercise, which breaks the stress feedback-loop to the brain.

For details, I strongly recommend reading my article on simple stress management techniques.

Man exercising in winter landscape to lower cortisol levels and boost the immune system naturally

3. Be Aware That Artificial Sweeteners Are Bad for You

One of artificial sweeteners’ side effects is the altering of your gut microbiome. For instance, aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose kill “good” microbes while promoting “bad” gut bacteria (Gundry et al. 201722).

Correspondingly, a single package of Splenda can eradicate 50 percent of healthy gut microflora (Abou-Donia et al. 200823).

Also, stevia is changing the composition of gut bacteria (Ruiz-Ojeda et al. 201924).

In light of coronavirus and the immune system, gut health plays an essential role. Accordingly, gut bacteria educate the immune system about which compounds should enter the body and which shouldn’t (Moreno et al. 201625).

Additionally, people drinking two or more diet sodas per day face 30% more strokes and heart attacks (ACC 201426).

Furthermore, consuming artificial sweeteners increases the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 50% (Dhingra et al. 200727).

Not only are artificial sweeteners bad for diabetics, but they also increase the risk of becoming one. Additionally, artificial sweeteners increase cancer risk (Purohit et al. 201828).

Because high insulin levels drive obesity, diabetes, and cancer, it’s not just about blood sugar (Orgel et al. 201429).

Sucralose, aspartame and stevia, almost don’t affect blood sugar, but they can raise insulin more than table sugar (Pepino et al. 201330; Anton et al. 201031).

Therefore, don’t mix up plant-based and healthy. Of course, artificial sweeteners are bad for you, but so is table sugar from sugar beet.

Moreover, Agave syrup with up to 97% fructose content, a primary driver of obesity, is even worse. Although stevia is a friendlier substitute, it raises insulin too.

To summarize, following artificial sweeteners are bad for you (non-exhaustive) – boost your immune system naturally by avoiding them:

  • Acesulfame Potassium (Coke Zero)
  • Aspartame (Diet Coke, Coke Zero)
  • Saccharin (Sweet’n Low)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Neotame
A can of diet coke's artificial sweeteners weaken the immune system against the coronavirus

4. Use the Health Benefits of Green Tea to Reduce Inflammation

What if there’s a risk-free low-cost disease prevention and health promotion tool anybody can use?

Indeed, green tea is healthy for you. Green tea boosts your immune system and helps with inflammation. How?

Particularly, through micronutrients called polyphenols in tea. While consisting of 4000 different compounds, the most potent health benefits of green tea come from a polyphenol class called flavonoids.

Also, red wine, onions, and broccoli are rich in flavonoids.

Moreover, fermentation of the tea plant “Camellia sinensis” determines the health benefits of green tea vs. black tea:

  • Unfermented – white tea
  • Minimally fermented – green tea
  • Partially fermented – oolong tea
  • Fully fermented – black tea

Especially the flavonoid class catechins in unfermented tea changes to theaflavins. Crucial regarding coronavirus and the immune system, theaflavins’ health benefits are antiviral, anti-cancer, and cholesterol-lowering (DiNicolantonio et al. 201932).

Furthermore, the primary catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea can prevent lung cancer. Additionally, EGCG inhibits insulin-induced aging effects and counteracts diabetes by burning liver-fat (Thielecke et al. 200933).

Generally, flavonoids strengthen the endothelial cell layer, which separates blood from the artery wall. Therefore, flavonoids help to prevent strokes, heart attacks, and atherosclerosis by reducing inflammation.

Moreover, flavonoids lower blood pressure and relax blood vessels (Hodgson et al. 201034).

By comparison of black tea vs. green tea health benefits, we can deduce that green tea contains more antioxidants and better protects against inflammation.

If you want the health benefits of green tea to boost your immune system further, then drink it on an empty stomach or cold brewed.

Again, comparing black tea vs. green tea health benefits crowns a clear victor in terms of mortality. Green tea can reduce all-cause mortality by 15%, deaths from heart attacks by 26%, and strokes by even 37% (Kuriyama et al. 200635).

The health benefits of this green tea on a wooden table can boost your immune system naturally to reduce inflammation

5. Drink a Glas of Red Wine a Day – It’s Good for Your Health

As well, polyphenols determine the health benefits of red wine. Since they are natural antioxidants, polyphenols reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation.

Correspondingly, polyphenols counteract blood clotting, thin blood, and relax blood vessels (Haseeb et al. 201736).

Especially the flavonoid resveratrol, which is exclusive to red wine, prevents atherosclerosis, and increases life span (Biagi et al. 201537).

Additionally, moderate alcohol helps to raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) the “good cholesterol,” reduce inflammation, hypertension, and diabetes risk (Sato et al. 200238).

But how much red wine is healthy?

According to research, 12.5 grams of alcohol yield lowest heart disease risk for women, while it’s 25 grams for men(Corrao et al. 200039).

Correspondingly, that’s 90 milliliters, 3 ounces, or 0.7 glasses of red wine a day for women. Likewise, men ideally drink 180 milliliters, 6 ounces, or 1.4 glasses a day.

Nevertheless, stick to moderate amounts daily and avoid binge drinking to reap the health benefits of red wine (Szmitko et al. 200540).

If your condition prohibits alcohol, then de-alcoholized red wine can yield similar benefits.

Since we know how much red wine is healthy, let’s determine what’s the best time to drink red wine for health.

The best time to drink red wine for health is with meals because red wine at mealtimes prevents blood pressure from rising. Moreover, it helps to decrease blood glucose and insulin levels (Shai et al. 200741).

Likewise, we don’t want the wine to raise blood glucose. So, which red wine is dry and has the least sugar?

Best dry red wine grape varieties with the least sugar:

  • Pinot Noir (2.3 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams sugar)
  • Gamay (2.4g, 0g)
  • Cabernet Franc, Merlot (2.5g, 0g)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah (2.6g, 0g)

And put quality over quantity. Therefore, a wine app simplifies your life.

A wine glass in front of a vineyard shows how much red wine a day is good to strengthen the immune system

6. Eat the Optimal Amount of Protein Per Day

According to research, dietary protein can help to cut the infection rate by about 30 percent. Furthermore, additional essential amino acids improve hemoglobin and other health markers (Aquilani et al. 201142).

Equally impressive in the context of coronavirus and the immune system, whey protein helped trauma patients to significantly decrease vulnerability to infections (Brown et al. 199443).

For those who are younger than 65, lowering protein intake reduces insulin-like growth factor one (IGF-1), which can decrease cancer and all-cause mortality (Levine et al. 201444).

On the contrary, for the coronavirus high-risk group of people aged 65 and above, higher protein intake is crucial to retain muscle mass. Because of anabolic resistance, the decreased ability to grow muscles, it’s harder to fight muscle loss (DiNicolantonio et al. 201945).

Therefore, the elderly should eat:

  • 1 to 1.2 grams of protein daily for each kilogram of body weight
  • 1.2 to 1.5g of protein per kg daily, in case of diseases (except kidney diseases)
  • 2g of protein per kg daily, in case of severe illnesses

And this is how much protein per day average adults should eat:

  • 1.2 to 1.8g of protein daily per kg of body weight when exercising moderately
  • 1.6 to 2.2g per kg for resistance training
  • 1.6 to 3.3g per kg for bodybuilders and elite athletes

With this in mind, whey and especially fish oil supplementation for omega-3 fatty acids helps the elderly to maintain muscle growth (Murphy et al. 201146).

Moreover, essential amino acid supplementation fights muscle loss during bed rest (Paddon-Jones et al. 200447). Since malnourishment during hospitalization increases infection risk, a sufficient amount of protein per day is essential.

That’s especially true for the coronavirus high-risk group because 1 in 31 patients acquires an infection in a hospital (CDC 202048).

A pack of eggs can supply the amount of protein per day the coronavirus high-risk group needs to boost a weakened immune system

7. Balance Your Omega-6 Vs. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Ratio

While research suggests an omega-6 vs. omega-3 ratio of 2:1 (Okuyama et al. 199649), the standard American diet (SAD) yields an average omega-6 vs. omega-3 ratio of 17:1 (Singh et al. 201050).

If you aren’t eating enough foods high in omega-3, but lots of foods with omega-6 fatty acids, chronic, uncontrolled inflammation sets your body “on fire” persistently.

Consequently, hypertension, atherosclerosis, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, allergies, and autoimmune disease are spreading (Simopoulos 200251).

Nevertheless, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids boost your immune system naturally with resolvins. These molecules help to stop inflammation when it’s no longer necessary to fight infections (Sommer et al. 201152).

Furthermore, omega-3 fats strengthen the immune system to fight viruses and other infectious illnesses. Since they boost protein synthesis, omega-3 fatty acids promote antibody and white blood cell production (Alexander et al. 198653).

Therefore, seafood high in omega-3 is vital for the elderly coronavirus high-risk group. Besides encouraging muscle gain, it burns fat, thins the blood, and lowers cortisol levels (Smith 201554).

Highly refined vegetable oils, on the other hand, are rich in omega-6 fats, promote inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality (Ramsden et al. 201355).

Foods with omega-6 fatty acids, especially linoleic acid, can oxidize. That means a chemical change to fats utilized as building blocks in your body, for example, for cell membranes.

During the processing of most vegetable oils, these foods with omega-6 fatty acids are oxidized in all possible ways – heat, light, air, and pressure (DiNicolantonio et al. 201956).

Therefore, oxidized omega-6 linoleic acid causes dysfunction in cells and their “power plants,” mitochondria (Moran 200157).

Furthermore, it promotes chronic inflammation (Marchix et al. 201558), LDL cholesterol oxidation (Gradinaru et al. 201559), hypertension, and atherosclerosis (Hennig et al. 200160).

Coconut oil is good for you since it fights viruses naturally

8. Eat Foods With Healthy Fats

To point out what are foods with healthy fats regarding coronavirus and the immune system, here are the remarkable health benefits of coconut oil. It can fight viruses, bacteria, and other microbes.

Furthermore, the lauric acid in coconut oil boosts your immune system naturally to destroy viruses like influenza, HIV, measles, or herpes.

However, coconut oil is the most suitable oil for cooking. Due to its high saturated fat content, it’s the only oil resisting heat-induced damage.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, saturated fat protects against cardiovascular diseases, instead of promoting them (Mozaffarian et al. 200461).

Since olive oil is an outstanding example of foods with monounsaturated fat, it’s less suitable for high heats.

But therefore, extra virgin olive oil offers large quantities of oleic acid, which lowers blood pressure, heart disease risk, and LDL cholesterol oxidation.

Due to antioxidants such as polyphenols or oleuropein, olives and olive oil reduce oxidative stress and increase your life span (Cañuelo et al. 201262).

Moreover, olives’ anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties boost your immune system naturally (Notarnicola et al. 201163).

Another outstanding food with monounsaturated fat is avocados. Similarly to olives, avocados are rich in oleic acid, antioxidants, and help to fight cancer, particularly leukemia (Lee et al. 201564).

Following examples of foods with healthy fats include monounsaturated, polyunsaturated omega-3 and saturated fatty acids:

Since following seed oils are foods with omega-6 fats releasing harmful chemicals when heated, avoid them, deep-fried foods, and especially hydrogenated trans fats like margarine:

  • canola
  • corn
  • cottonseed
  • grapeseed
  • peanut
  • safflower
  • soy
  • sunflower
  • partially hydrogenated vegetable
Using processed vegetable oil for cooking causes oxidation and weakens immunity

9. Avoid Foods High in Lectins

Lectins are proteins used by plants to defend themselves against predators. Since they cause natural resistance to parasites, concentrations of these plant toxins are higher in newer crop breedings (Macedo et al. 201565).

Notably, lectins in food hide within seeds, grains, skins, leaves, and rinds. Since they bind to carbohydrates in predators’ bodies, lectins are called “sticky proteins.”

Accordingly, lectins bind to sialic acid in nerve endings of gut and brain, inhibiting messaging and causing brain fog.

Also, these sugar molecules are in body fluids and blood vessel linings. Therefore, lectins cause inflammatory and toxic reactions (Freed 199966).

In light of coronavirus and the immune system, especially lectins found in grains can cause leaky gut. Hence, they enable bacteria and viruses like influenza to bypass the gut mucosal lining (Dalla Pellegrina et al. 200967).

Because of its weight-gaining effect, wheat became the grain of choice in times of food scarcity. Besides gluten, wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) causes these effects of lectins on the body.

Since WGA can bind to insulin (Shechter 198368) and leptin receptors (Kamikubo et al. 200869), it promotes weight gain and insulin resistance.

Furthermore, lectins kill healthy cells, cause atherosclerosis, cross the blood-brain barrier, and travel your nervous system from gut to brain, fostering Parkinson’s (Zheng et al. 201670).

Additionally, lectins induce anti-body creation against healthy cells, causing autoimmune diseases (Saeki et al. 201471).

Through steam cooking, skin and seed subtraction, you can partially remove lectins from high-lectin foods like tomatoes (Gundry et al. 201772).

Nevertheless, avoid this list of foods high in lectins, especially if you are among the coronavirus high-risk group:

  • refined vegetable oils (see above)
  • sugar, bakery, (whole) grains
  • rice
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • eggplants
  • zucchini
  • pumpkins
  • legumes (incl. peanuts)
  • soy
  • low-fat milk and yogurt
These red tomatoes are among the foods highest in lectins, which are weakening the immune system

Conclusion

We are facing a new challenge of disease prevention and health promotion.

Since there is no remedy or profound scientific knowledge, our often weakened immune systems have to fight the coronavirus without external help.

Because resilience to infections is vital, the best we can do is to strengthen our immune system naturally.

The first thing to remember is that pre-existing medical conditions can put you on the fast lane into the coronavirus high-risk group.

In detail, most critical pre-existing disorders such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, or cardiovascular disease are based on diet and lifestyle choices and can be prevented or reversed.

Therefore, these 9 tips will help you to boost your immune system against the coronavirus:

  1. Start Intermittent Fasting to Strengthen Your Immune System
  2. Lower Stress and Cortisol Levels Naturally
  3. Be Aware That Artificial Sweeteners Are Bad for You
  4. Use the Health Benefits of Green Tea to Reduce Inflammation
  5. Drink a Glas of Red Wine a Day – It’s Good for Your Health
  6. Eat the Optimal Amount of Protein Per Day
  7. Balance Your Omega-6 Vs. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Ratio
  8. Eat Foods With Healthy Fats
  9. Avoid Foods High in Lectins

Nevertheless, social distancing and hand hygiene is a must to prevent catching and spreading the coronavirus.

And remember, a proper diet might be the most effective lever of an individual, but it’s not magic. COVID-19 is an entirely new thread.

So do your best by strengthening your immune system naturally, but be on the severe side of things and a role model in public.

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Stephan is a writer and a true man of science holding multiple diplomas and master degrees among different areas of research. Closing the gap between the conventional perception of health and the latest scientific evidence is his greatest analytical passion – always following the data.

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