A 100% natural Chilean cholesterol-lowering venture could become an ally against COVID-19. Recent studies that have shown a possible relationship between daily consumption of phytosterols and balance of the immune system, strengthening the antiviral and anti-inflammatory response. As part of their research, from Nutrartis they sent samples of their Cardiosmile product to the United States to measure its effectiveness in reducing infectivity in viruses.
The phytosterol concentrate that is added to meals either either either this year was awarded by the Transform Foods of Corfo program, of Chilean innovations for the food industry.
Phytosterols are food ingredients present in plants. They have been studied since the 1960s for their ability to lower LDL cholesterol and various studies have shown a decrease in triglycerides in the blood, waist circumference and improved immune response in asthma patients, among other benefits.
Chilean researchers noted that some viruses like COVID-19 deceive the immune system reaction, preventing it from being activated properly. When the organism realizes that it is being attacked it is tired of fighting a virus that has strengthened and multiplied, while the organs are inflamed by the battle of our own poorly activated system. There are diseases that increase this threat, such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, asthma and hypertension: they all lead the list of chronic diseases associated with coronavirus cases according to the Ministry of Health, both hospitalized and non-hospitalized.
In addition to this, viruses that have an outer lipid (fat) wrapping such as COVID-19, HIV, Zika and Hepatitis B are known to more easily infect the cell in which they are housed when it contains a section of its very cholesterol-rich membrane. It appears that if cholesterol decreases in the membrane the viral infectivity decreases. Phytosterols would act as antivirals, inhibiting viruses from entering the host cell.
«Scientific evidence to date provides sustenment for a regulatory function of the body’s overall balance with phytosterol consumption, mainly by intervening in metabolic activities related to systemic inflammation caused by various infectious agents, as well as chronic noncommunicable diseases, including asthma or diabetes that increase our cardiovascular risk,» says Cecilia Brañes, Senior Researcher at the Naturalis Research Consortium , biochemistry and PhD in Biological Sciences.
While various institutions in Chile and the world work for a vaccine (the first may be available only in 2021, the emphasis is while preventing infection. «Now more than ever we continue to investigate the contributions that phytosterols can provide to the health and well-being of people with a focus on prevention. If we rely on scientific advances, natural preventive measures such as good rest, physical exercise and a balanced diet that includes vitamins, minerals and phytosterols could better prepare the immune system in the face of an attack of viruses and other diseases», recommends Gonzalo Vega, technical director of Nutrartis S.A.
Innate and adaptive immunity
It is important to understand that there are two types of immunity: the first, called innate or native immunity, continuously monitors the body to react against foreign species, something like a first line of containment. The secondary answer, or adaptive immunity, appears once the first line assigns the potential problem to give the battle. Coronavirus deceives the immune response, resulting in a «cytokine storm» or «cytokine storm,» an exaggerated immune reaction that in the case of COVID-19 can lead to respiratory failure.
Products that help lower cholesterol levels are a possible self-care alternative as:
They modulate the innate immune response.
They balance the function of adaptive immunity.
They favor the resolution of the inflammatory response once initiated.
Allergic and obese people have shown a better response in the production of antibodies after consumption of phytosterols, which is interesting given that in Chile 74% of the adult population suffers from overweight or obese according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); even more considering that obesity is a repeating risk factor among young patients who are aggravated by COVID-19.