[COLUMN] The new vaccine

THE resurgence of COVID-19 in the form of its new strains, XBB.1.5, EG.5, FL.1.5.1, and the highly mutated BA.2.86 (Pirola), with 18,871 hospitalized from August 27 to September 2, 2023, and a death rate of about 700 per week in the United States, a 10.5 percent increase from prior weeks, prompted Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to come out with a monovalent vaccine (by September 14) to target the dominant XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariants, following FDA advisory panel recommendation in June. All previous vaccines, including the bivalent boosters, are no longer authorized in the United States. The new vaccine appears to be effective also against EG.5 and FL.1.5.1, and possibly against the BA.2.86 mutant.

“The updated vaccines – approved for people 12 years and up and under emergency authorization for kids 6 months to 11 years of age – can be used for primary series or booster vaccinations, and with this new action,” according to CDC.

According to the FDA, “people 5 years and older can receive a single dose of the updated mRNA vaccines at least 2 months since their last dose of any COVID vaccine, and 3 months following a COVID-19 infection.

“For kids 6 months to 4 years, those who have been previously vaccinated will be eligible for one or two doses of the new products, depending on how many previous doses they have received. Those currently unvaccinated can receive three doses of Pfizer’s vaccine or two doses of Moderna’s vaccine.

“Under the new approval, primary series vaccinations in people 12 years and older for Moderna and Pfizer’s products call for a single dose (down from two doses).”

As expected, “the CDC recommends the updated boosters for older adults and other vulnerable groups – such as immunocompromised individuals and those with established medical conditions placing them at high risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19 – though it’s less clear how forceful recommendations will be for younger, healthy populations.”

The number of new cases, hospitalization, and death rates are still very significant. Let us be safe, get vaccinated and utilize masking and do social distancing, and avoiding crowds. Even those fully vaccinated or have had previous COVID-19 infections are not guaranteed to be immune from these new strains. Covid-19 deaths are up 10.5 percent!

Coconut oil: Unhealthy

In my newspaper articles since the early 1980s, I have pointed out that coconut oil is NOT a healthy oil, not even a healthy food item, although I love its taste in many recipes. An old study at the University of the Philippines claimed coconut to be “essential for health,” but several studies, including this latest one, suggest otherwise.

The recent laboratory findings revealed that “coconut oil disrupted mice’s ability to use leptin and insulin, two critical hormones, with insulin resistance being a primary characteristic of type 2 diabetes.” Instead of saturated oils like coconut oil or oil from animal fats, especially from pork, nutritionists recommend unsaturated or polyunsaturated oil, like extra virgin oil, avocado oil; sesame, flaxseed, walnut oils, the healthy oils.

Coconut oil “alters the metabolism, leads to obesity, disturbs our ability to properly use leptin and insulin, two vital hormones that regulate energy expenditure, hunger, and how the body handles fats and sugar,” which the new study reconfirms. Saturated fatty acids consumption leads to leptin resistance also. Coconut oil also increases LDL (bad cholesterol), according to the American Heart Association. It is worse than butter, lard, and other animal-derived fats.

Coconut oil produced a central and peripheral inflammatory response, weight gain, a higher percentage of fat, reduced energy expenditure, and anxious behavior, suggesting a systemic imbalance.” (Journal of Functional Food).

Diet warning

There is no longer any doubt that diet affects our health, our entire body from head to toe, and our longevity. There was a time when everyone thought physical exercise was more important in our overall health and well-being. People started to reduce caloric intake and concentrated more on physical exercises. Several recent peer-reviewed studies have shown that diet is a greater factor in our well-being and life span, physical exercise is a close second. The combination of the two is superior.

While low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets was the trend the past three or more decades, new research in Japan revealed that “consuming too little (less than 40 percent of their daily calories from) carbohydrates and fats can shorten one’s lifespan.”

More specifically, “men who eat too few carbohydrates daily may increase their risk of dying (all-cause mortality); men who got more than 35 percent of calories from any kind of fat were at a higher risk for cancer and cardiovascular mortality; and, women who consume insufficient quantities of fat may have a marginally higher risk of all-cause mortality and cancer-related mortality…women who got more than 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates were at a higher all-cause mortality risk, and those consuming more saturated fats decrease their risk of all-cause and cancer mortality,” reports the new study of 34,893 men and 46,440 women, ages 35-69, from Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Warning: Before Americans and others take the wrong message from the above findings, let it be clear that these conclusions may not apply to peoples of other nations. Future studies involving the West and other countries are needed to confirm or negate these surprising but interesting findings.

As far as dining discipline is concerned, as it relates to health, well-being, and longevity, I follow the advice of our former medical school professor and friend, Dr. Fe del Mundo, world-renowned pediatrician from the Philippines, one of the first women admitted for graduate work at Harvard School of Medicine in the mid-30s, who was practicing pediatrics in a wheelchair up to age 94 and who died at almost 100 years-old: She told my pediatrician-wife, Farida, and me, that her secret to health and longevity was “leaving the table less than full.”

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. He was a recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash Award in 1995, presented by then Indiana Governor, later Senator, and then presidential candidate, Evan Bayh. Other Sagamore past awardees include President Harry Truman, President George HW Bush, Muhammad Ali, and Astronaut Gus Grissom (Wikipedia). Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected].


Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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