High Cholesterol Is a Risk Factor for Coronavirus, Says Dr. Kim Williams
By now we got the memo: A whole-food, plant-based diet can boost your immune system, keeping you strong and healthy and more likely capable of bouncing back if you get exposed to the Coronavirus. That much we know. But a very different insight comes from Dr. Kim Williams, who wants us to lower our cholesterol since the coronavirus appears to flourish in those with high cholesterol according to a new study.
Dr. Kim Williams, Past President of the American College of Cardiology, Current Chief of the Department of Cardiology at Rush Medical Center and featured in the movie, The Game Changers, shares new information that a recent study shows the virus replenishes itself in the blood of those with high cholesterol. In addition, he adds, the coronavirus likes to hang out in fat cells. High LDL or bad cholesterol, the study says, "is found to be an important component to facilitate viral entry into host cells."
The study looks at how of diabetes, cancer, hypertension, high cholesterol, kidney issues, and stroke, all impact COVID-19 severity.
So, for more than just boosting our immune system, Dr. Williams wants us to keep our cholesterol low and our fat cells to a minimum (Adios, saturated fat from meat and dairy!) In so many ways, following a whole-food, plant-based diet can literally save our lives.
Here is an excerpt from Elysabeth’s interview with Dr. Kim Williams.
Elysabeth: As I understand it, cardiac disease is America’s number one killer, is that right? Does someone die every forty seconds?
Dr. Kim Williams: Heart disease has been the number one killer since 1918. There was the Spanish flu epidemic that took 675,000 American lives. So, the 600,000 or so Americans that die from heart disease every year was a little less than that.
Even though that pandemic lasted for three years in the United States, by 1919 heart disease was the number one killer again, and it’s been that way ever since. [Including strokes, the number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease in the US is now over 840,000.]
Well, now it’s even more relevant [due to the coronavirus]. Because it turns out that every piece of new research that’s done... we find out that it is the cardiac risk that puts people in trouble: Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
We were sort of shocked a few weeks ago when it turned out that the blood of people with high cholesterol [are at risk for severe coronavirus symptoms].
The study found that high cholesterol is a good sort of place for the coronavirus to replenish itself and it turns out, and that fat cells are their preferred place to be. And then the overweight person, the obese person, has much higher viral loads.
Elyzabeth: What about diabetes? We know the virus is more severe in diabetics.
Dr. Williams: Well, it actually is occurring [most severely] in a lot of people who are overweight. So, they have higher viral levels, and diabetes impairs your immune system. We’ve known that for years, that diabetes makes you more susceptible to infections... It’s a tough place to be if your blood sugar is high.
When you have diabetes, your white cells don’t work very well. Now as it turns out, high blood pressure actually puts people in more trouble with coronavirus, and that may be because it actually damages blood vessels, and sure enough, the coronavirus can attack blood vessels and get a so-called vasculitis or inflammation in the blood vessels.
Elyzabeth: So what is the takeaway for the reader who wants to avoid coronavirus?
Dr. Williams: The best answer, is that these are four things that we can do something about: Obesity, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Change to a whole food plant-based diet.
Elysabeth: You’re singing my song.
Dr. Kim Williams: Yes, do it today, and so by next week you’ll be lighter, your blood sugar will be better, your blood pressure will have gone down, and you will have a better shot if you do get exposed [to the virus]. And you know at some point we’re all going to be exposed. The question is, what’s going to happen when we do [get exposed]? How sick are we going to get? Now, can I talk about the other side just for a moment?
Elysabeth: Go ahead, it’s your show.
Dr. Kim Williams: We have a whole lot of people who are plant-based saying that they can’t get the disease and if you look at the basic science of the vegan diet, it is true that your immune system is stronger when you do eat plants.
The number of inflammatory markers in your bloodstream are lower, your blood pressure, your cholesterol, all of these things are substantially better… but that doesn’t mean you can’t spread it to somebody else, okay? So, let’s please all do the social distancing, and all the masking.
Elysabeth: Yes, we got that memo, too: Wear your mask and say ‘Yes!’ to plants!
Elysabeth Alfano is a plant-based expert for mainstream media, breaking down the plant-based health, food, culture, business and environmental news for the general public on radio and TV. Follow her @elysabethalfano on all platforms.