Immunity has been the buzz word ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Several agencies, including Ayush Ministry, have recommended many immunity-boosting food items. We have previously busted myths about food and immunity. A forwarded message has been taking advantage of the situation and is going viral on social media with the claim that “eating millets can prevent you from getting coronavirus”. The message that is originally in Marathi goes on to say that “even if one gets the virus, the heat from millets will create antibodies that will destroy the virus”.
However, we reached out to a doctor and scientists at the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) who told The Quint that although millets help in improving one’s immunity, it will not protect you from coronavirus.
The message posted by several people on Facebook claims that “according to a famous doctor, a man who eats millet does not usually get corona[virus]. The message goes on to say that “if you eat millet, nothing will happen even if you test positive for COVID-19”. The message ends will the claim that “people in villages are healthy because they eat millet and that’s the reason coronavirus cases in the rural areas is less”.
The same forwarded message was also seen on Twitter, posted by a Marathi news website.
WHAT WE FOUND
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends including millets in its healthy diet during COVID-19 pandemic. “People who eat a well-balanced diet tend to be healthier with stronger immune systems and lower risk of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases,” the WHO press release says.
However, the organisation does not say that having millets can prevent coronavirus.
The Quint also reached out to Dr Ravi Kumar Vemula, Senior Technical Officer, Indian Institute of Millets Research. He also said that the information provided in the forwarded message is incorrect. According to Dr Vemula, millets can help in building immunity, but they do not have any instant effect on coronavirus, he said.
We also found an amended version of the message which included the contact information of a Bajra dealer who supplies “100% Chemical free & organic bajra.”
The last part of the message claiming that people in villages who have a millet-based diet are not getting coronavirus as much as their urban counterpart is also not true. Although fewer cases were reported initially, district-level data by How India Lives, a website that collates public data, shows that more than 50 per cent of the cases recorded in August came from rural areas.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF MILLETS
The National Institute of Nutrition, in April, said that a balanced diet would be essential in our fight against COVID-19 as it helps in providing a better immunity. The scientists at the IIMR told The Hindu that millets could be a promising immunity booster.
“Millets are nutritionally superior to major cereals (wheat and rice) for carbohydrate and energy, and serve as a good source of protein, high dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and micronutrients”, VA Tonapi, Director of IIMR-ICAR, told The Hindu.
Apart from boosting immune response, millets are known to help in gut health maintenance, keeping bones healthy and for weight management. Although consuming millets and adding it to your diet is certainly healthy, one should start consuming it in small quantities to give time to the digestive system to get adjusted to the food. You can read more about the health benefits of millets on this story.
Therefore, one should include millets in their diet as they are a good source of multiple micronutrients and fibre. However, it is not true that they can protect you from getting coronavirus or cure it when you get the virus. It is also not true that villages have fewer coronavirus cases as the data shows that cases are steadily increasing in rural areas.
(The article was first published on FIT .)