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Dr Ornish and his balanced view of Covid, nutrition, vaccines and overall health

One of our book clubs is currently reading Undo It! by Dr Dean and Anne Ornish. For those with paperback copy of the book there is a wonderful foreword included about Covid-19. As this foreword is not included in the digital versions, which some of our members are reading, I would like to share Dr. Ornish's thoughts here, in full, with you all. I value his balanced and logical approach to how we can all best deal with this disease - and so many others as well!

What follows is quoted directly from Undo It! Foreword to the Paperback Edition

"Since this book was published in hardcover in 2019, the world has experienced one of the most significant health events in modern history: the COVID-19 pandemic.

The four aspects of our lifestyle medicine program - eat well, move more, stress less, love more - have been proven to reverse the progression of a wide variety of chronic diseases. They also enhance immune system function, another example of the power of lifestyle medicine and the unifying theory described here.

As you know, much of the focus has been on preventing exposure to the coronavirus, which is very important - staying at home, social distancing, hand washing/sanitizers, and wearing masks, especially when at indoor gatherings or with unvaccinated people.

Vaccination is very important to enhance your immune system as it dramatically reduces the likelihood of having severe COVID-19 or dying from it.

Lifestyle factors are also important - the risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 is increased in those who have chronic health conditions even when vaccinated. (1) As such, preventing or reversing chronic diseases may also reduce your risk of dying from COVID-19.

Here is a selection of recent studies showing the power of lifestyle medicine to help prevent getting sick and dying from COVID-19:

Eat Well: A study of almost 3,000 frontline healthcare workers in six countries with extensive exposure to COVID-19 who were following healthy plant-based diets were 73 percent less likely to develop moderate to severe illness. Those following plant-based diets that also included fish were 59 percent less likely. On the other hand, those health care professionals following low-carb, high-animal-protein diets were nearly four times more likely to develop moderate to severe illness. (2)

In another study of almost 600,000 people conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and King's College (London), those eating a predominantly plant-based diet had a 9 percent lower risk of developing COVID-19 and a 41 percent lower risk of severe COVID-19 disease. (3)

Move More: Almost 50,000 patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive had more than double the risk of hospitalization or death than those doing some physical activity. (4) Also, obesity triples the risk of hospitalization, ICU admission, being on a ventilator, and death due to COVID-19, especially in those under thirty. (5)

Stress Less: Chronic stress suppresses immune function whereas stress management enhances it. For example, researchers dripped five types of respiratory viruses, including coronavirus type 229E (a less deadly form than COVID-19), into the noses of volunteers. The rates of symptomatic respiratory infection increased significantly in a dose-response manner as the degree of psychological stress increased. (6)

Chronic stress also makes vaccines less effective. Lower antibody responses were found among patients with chronically high levels of stress who received immunization. (7) Also, chronic stress increases the levels of inflammatory cytokines, and these substances increase the likelihood of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. (8)

Love More: Staying at home and social distancing help prevent transmission of the virus, but feeling lonely can be harmful to your health. People who are lonely and isolated are three to ten times more likely to get sick and die prematurely from virtually all causes when compared to those who have a strong sense of love, connection, and community. (9)

While it's important to stay at home, wash your hands, disinfect, etc., it's also wise to spend more time socializing with family members and others who are living with you as well as using video technologies or just the telephone to virtually spend time with friends and family in other places.

In another study, researchers dripped rhinovirus (which causes the common cold) into the noses of volunteers. All of them became infected, but everyone developed the signs and symptoms of a cold. Those that had only one to three phone calls or visists from a friend every two weeks were 4.2 times more likely to develop a cold than those with six or more calls or visits during that time. (10)

In other words, even in those who were infected with the virus, how well their immune system was able to neutralize the virus was directly influenced by their social relationships - i.e., love more. You don't need to risk exposing yourself to COVID-19 by being with others; a phone call or video chat may work just as well to enhance your immune function.

In summary, the COVID-19 pandemic is another example of the potency of the unifying theory described in this book. When you eat well, move more, stress less, and love more, you may significantly reduce the risk of a wide range of the most common, costly, and deadly diseases, including COVID-19.

Why? Because these diseases all share the same underlying biological mechanisms, which, in turn, are directly related to the lifestyle choices we make each day - for better and for worse.

I am currently directing the first randomized control trial to determine if lifestyle changes may also stop or reverse the progression of early-stage Alzheimer's disease ( My colleagues and I hypothesize that this may be the latest example of the unifying theory since Alzheimer's is caused by many of the same biological mechanisms common to many other chronic illnesses, but we don't know yet. Stay tuned ...

- Dean Ornish, M.D.

October 4, 2021"

And then consider joining our book club to discuss this wonderful book!



  1. Antonelli M, Penfold RS, Merio J, et al. Risk factors and disease profile of post-vaccination SARS-CoV-2 infection in UK users of the COVID symptom study app. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(21)00460-6, Sept 1, 2021

  2. Kim H et al. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, doi: 10.1136/bmjnph-2021-000272

  3. Marino J et al. medRxliv. doi: 10.1101/2021.06.24.2159283.

  4. Sallis RE et al. British Journal of Sports Medicine April 13, 2021. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-104080.

  5. Centers for Disease Control.

  6. Cohen S, Tyrrell DAJ, Smith AP. Psychological stress and susceptibility to the common cold. N Engl J Med. 1991;325:606-12

  7. Cohen S, Miller GE, Rabin BS. Psychological stress and antibody response to immunization: a critical review of the human literature. Psychosom Med. Jan-Feb 2001;63(1):7-18.

  8. Morey JN et al. Current directions in stress and human immune function. Curr Opin Psychol. Oct. 2015 1; 5: 13-17.

  9. Ornish D. Love & Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy. New York: HarperCollins, 1998.

  10. Cohen S., Doyle WJ, Skoner DP. Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. JAMA. 1997;277(24):1940-1944


Be well

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