With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), more than 6 million Americans have been infected with the disease, resulting in over 196,000 deaths as of September 2020.

While it’s still too soon to determine all of the definitive reasons for the differentiating survivability trends between men and women, both biological and nonbiological factors are certainly playing a role.

According to a study published by Frontiers in Public Health in April 2020, men and women were equally susceptible to COVID-19, but men were more prone to passing away as a result of the disease.

In one large subset, the number of male patients who died was 2.4 times higher than women (about 70% to 30%). The researchers found similar trends among the patients of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.

According to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 surveillance report, 58% of all COVID-19-related deaths in Europe were men. The New York City Department of Health reported similar numbers, with males accounting for about 60% of COVID-19 deaths.

With data suggesting that sex plays a role in severity of COVID-19’s effects, the question arises: Why?

Many scientists and medical professionals agree that differences in survivability between men and women stem from biological factors, such as differences in hormones and the development of chronic diseases, as well as nonbiological factors like diet.

Women have more robust immune systems than men and are better at producing antibodies that aid in their fight against viral infections. Female bodies possess estrogen receptors, and estrogen shows its effects on immune cells mostly through these receptors.

As detailed in the book A Survival Guide to Staying Healthy during the COVID-19 Crisis by Dr. Gary Donovitz, M.D., estrogen regulates multiple aspects of immune cell function, including T cell activation, proliferation, and survival of these important immune cells that help the body fight infection.

Estrogen hormone has also been shown to regulate neutrophils, white blood cells that circulate around the body and, upon receiving signals that an infection is present, are the first to travel to the site of infection to begin destroying the microbes.

Neutrophils can also alter macrophage function, a scavenger white blood cell that removes foreign particles, bacteria, and viruses. In other words: Estrogen has a boosting effect on the immune system.

Women also live longer than men and are likely to develop chronic diseases like heart disease and hypertension later in life than men — and both conditions increase the risk of severe effects of COVID-19 and can hinder overall immune response.

In addition to biological factors, nonbiological factors, such as diet, may also play a role in the COVID-19 gender disparity.

According to Harvard Health, although obesity is slightly more prevalent in women, excess weight is still more detrimental for men because women tend to carry excess weight in their hips and thighs, whereas men carry it in their abdomen — and abdominal obesity can significantly increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

With both biological and nonbiological factors putting men more at risk for serious and sometimes lethal effects of COVID-19, what are the best practices to stay safe?

Now is a critical time for both men and women to boost their immune systems and improve their overall health and wellness to have better outcomes against viral infections like COVID-19.


1. Optimize Hormone Levels – First, it’s important for both men and women to maintain optimal hormone levels. Hormones are essentially chemical messengers that affect the functioning of other cells, which means a wide variety of symptoms, from weight gain to low energy, can signal a hormone imbalance.

Balanced hormone levels can support a strong immune system and contribute not only to overall wellness, but also to feeling younger, healthier, and happier.


2. Optimize the Thyroid – The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism, so it’s crucial that the thyroid functions effectively.

When the thyroid doesn’t function properly, it can produce too little or too much hormone, which can lead to a variety of diseases and increased health risks.


3. Add Probiotics – Probiotics can help improve gastrointestinal health by up-regulating immune function. Some clinical trials have shown that probiotics may reduce acute respiratory infections, many of which are caused by viruses.


4. Supplement with Nutraceuticals – While a good diet goes a long way toward our general well-being, it is also important to be aware of the essential vitamins and nutrients that may be difficult to attain from diet alone.

Clinical-grade nutraceuticals are often a necessary component of healthier aging and provide nutritional support for vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may have created health deficits that have often been accumulating for years. That’s where vital nutraceuticals, like iodine or curcumin, come into play.


Although clinical research of COVID-19 is only at its beginning phases, scientists and medical professionals agree that one of the best protections against the disease is a strong immune system.

Boosting the immune system through medical and lifestyle interventions can improve overall health and well-being as well as fortify the body’s defenses against viral diseases.


Dr. Cory Rice, DO, BioTE Medical Advisory board member (www.biotemedical.com), earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic science and completed medical school at the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine. Rice’s professional interests include nutrition-based chronic disease management, thyroid optimization, and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy for men and women.

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