Little Saigon’s COVID-19 Rates Are Low—Vietnamese Diet, Values May Be Why

October 7, 2020 Updated: October 7, 2020

Little Saigon in Orange County, California, is home to the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. Located mostly in the cities of Westminster and Garden Grove, this community appears to have a lower incidence of COVID-19 on average, according to Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA).

“If there is better compliance with mitigation strategies, such as social distancing, wearing face coverings, hand washing, etc., [it] will lead to lower levels of infection,” Chau, who is originally from Vietnam, told The Epoch Times in an email.

Traditional Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism and emphasizes respect for authority and the elderly. Family is also very important, and extended families often live together, with the younger generations expected to eventually take care of the older generations.

As local, state, and federal officials have issued orders and guidelines for responding to the spread of COVID-19, the Vietnamese community generally appears to have followed them, while also taking steps to protect those in their family who are most at risk.

Mask-wearing was already popular in many parts of Asia and the Asian-American community, including the Vietnamese-American community, in the years prior to the pandemic, to protect the wearer from the sun and pollution, and as a courtesy to protect other people if the wearer was sick.

County officials do not have the precise data for the Vietnamese population regarding the number of cases; instead they use the general category of “Asian.” While Asians represent 21.1 percent of the population, they only make up 8.25 percent of the total number of cases in Orange County.

Meanwhile, out of 1,216 total COVID deaths reported as of last week, there were 69 deaths of people with Vietnamese heritage, said Dr. Curtis Condon, research manager of the OCHCA, in an email.

Diet and Healthy Habits

Chau said many other complex factors can affect a person’s immunity to disease.

“Good health, including a healthy diet, supports the immune system response,” he said. “A healthy diet, a healthy weight, good stress management, getting plenty of rest and exercise, and other healthy behaviors contribute to good health, including supporting the body’s immune response to viruses.”

In the past few months, some researchers have studied the effect of low nutrient levels, such as inadequate vitamin D, in patients with COVID-19.

Michael F. Holick of the Boston University School of Medicine found that adequate vitamin D levels can reduce the risk of catching the novel coronavirus by 54 percent, as well as reduce the risk of death in patients 40 and older by 51.5 percent. Sufficient vitamin D in the body also lowered the risk of other complications.

“This study provides direct evidence that vitamin D sufficiency can reduce the complications, including the cytokine storm (release of too many proteins into the blood too quickly) and ultimately death from COVID-19,” he said in a statement on Sept. 25.

Holick said vitamin D deficiency is common in both children and adults in the United States and around the world.

One source of vitamin D includes rich bone broth, which can be found in the most famous and most popular Vietnamese dish: pho (beef or chicken noodle soup). Traditional Vietnamese food also includes many fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, fresh fruits, and other nutrient-rich, less processed ingredients.

study of chicken soup in 2000 also found it may ease the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections and provide some anti-inflammatory effects.

However, just because something is good doesn’t mean that more is always better. In 2009, a 26-year-old athlete was found to have developed vitamin D toxicity from consuming excessive amounts of beef bone broth over the course of six months.

Chau declined to speculate about the benefits of any particular food, but he again emphasized the importance of healthy habits on one’s overall health.

Gary Ruelas at the Integrative Medical Institute in Orange, California, also wrote in an April 23 blog post that a person’s diet can affect their immunity to disease: “Cell biology basically tells us that our body’s cells require nutrients to function optimally … some of which the body can create and some of it must be derived from the foods we consume.”

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