Healthy lifestyle is crucial in the coronavirus era, experts tell cabinet

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The government should focus more on promoting a healthy lifestyle as a way to limit the effects of coronavirus infection, 65 doctors and health organisation officials have said in a letter to the cabinet.

Healthier food, more exercise and ensuring enough time to relax will boost the immune system and this can make the infection less virulent, the experts said.

In particular, people who are overweight or obese are at greater risk of a serious coronavirus impact, expert Liesbeth van Rossum told public broadcaster NPO. Most coronavirus patients in hospital and intensive care are overweight, she said.

‘Fat is not just a layer of blubber,’ Van Rossum said. ‘It makes hormones and promotes inflammation because the body is in a constant state of stress. Apart from causing heart disease, this compromises the immune system in general.’

New research shows that the immune system can improve by a minor drop in weight. ‘You don’t have to be a beanpole,’ Van Rossum said.

Medication and psycho-social factors also play a role in weight gain, Van Rossum said. ‘But we are spending more time at home, taking less exercise and eating more snacks. Then your immune system will suffer,’ she said.

The cabinet needs to take more action, the letter writers said, and not focus solely on the prevention of infections.

A spokesman for junior health minister Paul Blokhuis said the ministry is looking into ways of communicating the message. He acknowledged healthy habits were not given the same emphasis as repeated hand-washing and social distancing in tackling the pandemic.

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