Why is COVID worse for men?

New study suggests that reproductive hormones could play a protective role against COVID.

In August 2020, there were more than 770,000 deaths from COVID-19 worldwide. However, the virus does not choose its victims at random. Certain risk factors increase the likelihood that a person will suffer or even die from a severe case of COVID-19. Researchers continue to carefully look for specific risk factors so that preventive measures can be taken. So far, doctors have found that the elderly, those with heart disease and those with sleep apnea are more likely to die from COVID.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, a University of Chicago researcher found a difference in death rates between men and women. Further research found that men were twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as women, which led him to investigate why COVID is worse for men. The results were published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Dr. Graziano Pinna, a research fellow at the University of Chicago, used existing research studies to examine why COVID is worse for men. He discovered that the reproductive hormones estrogen, progesterone and allopregnanolone present in women could play a protective role against the COVID-19 virus.

Progesterone is a steroid that affects the immune system and has anti-inflammatory effects. It also stimulates the repair of respiratory tissue. Estrogen also plays a role in regulating the immune system. Allopregnanolone is a progesterone-derived steroid that protects the brain from inflammation.

Dr. Pinna's research suggests that the lack of these reproductive steroids could be why COVID is worse for men and the elderly. Because postmenopausal men and women do not have the protective anti-inflammatory properties of reproductive hormones, they are more likely to develop a severe reaction to the COVID-19 virus. The protective effect of the hormones has been observed in several cases by pregnant women. These women had mild cases of COVID-19 during their pregnancy but showed increased symptoms shortly after delivery when their reproductive hormone levels dropped.

Diet can also play a protective role against COVID-19. Diets high in soybeans, lentils, and oats, and containing phytoestrogens that can bind to estrogen receptors, are believed to provide some defense. In a press release, Dr. Pinna: "Diet is very important and it has not been talked about much. It is important because every day we can take care of strengthening the immune system and strengthening our body against COVID."

Written by: Rebecca K. Blankenship


Gadi N., Wu SC, Spihlman AP, Moulton VR. What has sex to do with COVID-19? Gender differences in the host's immune response to coronaviruses. Limits in Immunology. 2020; 11. doi: 10.3389 / fimmu.2020.02147

Pinna G. Sex and COVID-19: A Protective Function for Reproductive Steroids. Trends in endocrinology and metabolism. 2020. doi: 10.1016 / j.tem.2020.11.004

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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