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Researcher cautions against an unhealthy diet of food and information

For Release Upon Receipt - Saturday, April 25, 2020

Researcher cautions against an unhealthy dietof food and information

UWI lecturer in Public Health and Epidemiology, Dr Natasha Sobers, has reiterated a call for the public to rely only on credible sources for information on COVID-19.

Addressing an April 22 online forum hosted by The UWI Cave Hill Campus entitled ‘UWI on the frontline: Combatting COVID-19 through data’, Dr Sobers said medical officials have been bombarded daily with suggestions of magical cures for the illness.

“There’s lots of misinformation out there. I have certainly received social media messages that talk about the magic of limes and adding hot water and squeezing this into that and all of that is misinformation because it’s distracting us from what we actually need to do,” she said.

She stressed there are no magic cures for COVID, however individuals can improve their chances of fighting infection through a healthy diet.

“We have still to focus, even in the midst of COVID, on eating a healthy diet. Because a healthy diet, having a balanced meal will help us to fight COVID, it will help us to fight other infections, it helps us to fight non-communicable diseases which still exists within this paradigm.”

Regarding the current cases of COVID-19 across the Caribbean, Dr Sobers suggested that the full scale of infection is not yet known.

“When we’re looking at the numbers of confirmed cases, we have to be very aware that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Obviously we’re only testing persons who make it towards the health care system, and we know that COVID has lots of asymptomatic persons; 50 per cent of people will be asymptomatic and another 30 percent will have mild disease,” she said.

Dr. Sobers also cautioned against comparing raw numbers and confirmed cases, when examining the situation in the region, citing two reasons for her position.

“One, the populations are different and the other reason … is that different countries have different testing.”

Comparing cases in Barbados and Guyana, she said: “Barbados has 26 cases for every 100,000 people that live here. Guyana has eight cases for every 100,000 people that live there. But look at how many tests Guyana is doing per case, versus Barbados tests per case. Barbados is obviously doing a lot more so they’re going to find a lot more. And they’re going in the right direction to say they’re not just testing serious cases but they’re also testing moderate and mild,” she said.

She reminded the audience that there are also other factors to be taken into consideration when making decisions on COVID-19, and the information is constantly changing.

“While we’re looking at the best available information we’re also looking at the socio-economic context within which these decisions are being made and we’re also taking into consideration some of the cultural factors for these decisions.

“So it’s science mixed with culture and socio economic status and that is generally the foundation for thinking about evidence-based decision making,” Dr. Sobers said.


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About The UWI

For over 70 years The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has provided service and leadership to the Caribbean region and wider world. The UWI has evolved from a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948 to an internationally respected, regional university with near 50,000 students and four campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, and an Open Campus. As part of its robust globalization agenda, The UWI has established partnering centres with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, and Africa including the State University of New York (SUNY)-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development; the Canada-Caribbean Studies Institute with Brock University; the Strategic Alliance for Hemispheric Development with Universidad de los Andes (UNIANDES); the UWI-China Institute of Information Technology, the University of Lagos (UNILAG)-UWI Institute of African and Diaspora Studies and the Institute for Global African Affairs with the University of Johannesburg (UJ). The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science & Technology, Social Sciences and Sport.

As the region’s premier research academy, The UWI’s foremost objective is driving the growth and development of the regional economy. Times Higher Education ranked The UWI among the top 1,258 universities in world for 2019, and the 40 best universities in its Latin America Rankings for 2018. The UWI was the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists. For more, visit

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)


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