While many countries are slowly starting to open up after months of quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic, some, such as the United States, are still struggling to contain the outbreak. Many people are, understandably, worried about contracting the virus, and taking all the precautionary measures they can to prevent it.

Recently, a new study has been released that may hold a key factor into South Korea’s fairly successful fight against COVID-19: Kimchi.

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The study, performed by a team of French researchers led by honorary professor Dr. Jean Bousquet of Pulmonary Medicine at Montpellier University, took a look at the typical diets of countries that had lower than average fatalities from the coronavirus. What they found was that countries such as South Korea and Germany that consumed a high amount of fermented foods (kimchi and sauerkraut respectively) were among those with lower death rates!

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In South Korea, there have been 296 deaths out of 13,771 known cases, making the fatality rate about 2.14%. In Germany, the percentage is a little higher at 4.51%, but compared to other countries’ death rates that lacked fermented cabbage in their diets (14.33% in Italy, 9.24% in Spain, and 15.36% in the United Kingdom), both numbers are drastically lower.

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The science behind the results, reported in the journal of Clinical and Translational Allergy, is fascinating. According to the study, the high consumption of fermented cabbage helps to reduce the levels of something called ACE2, which is an enzyme in a person’s lungs that the COVID-19 virus uses to enter and attack the patient’s body. With a lower level of ACE2 in a person’s lungs, the virus has a lower chance of being able to access the body where it can do the most damage.

Coronavirus binds to ACE2 that induces oxidative stress, pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic effects. Fermented foods have potent antioxidant activity and can protect against severe Covid-19.

— Dr. Bousquet

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Additionally, kimchi also helps support the health of the “gut microbiome”, which is an important factor in a person’s immune response to attacks from things such as the coronavirus. And apparently, this isn’t uncommon knowledge in countries where consumption of kimchi (and other fermented cabbage foods) are high — as far back as April, reports of a surge in the sales of such foods followed the pandemic, due to people already believing it would help support their immune system.

Of course, kimchi is not a miracle cure against COVID-19, but it wouldn’t hurt to start including it more in your diet!