Eating healthy plant-based foods will reduce the risk of COVID infection and its severity, a study finds.
The protective effect of a healthy plant-based diet against COVID appears to be even greater for those living in deprived areas.
Dr Jordi Merino, the study’s first author, said:
“Previous reports suggest that poor nutrition is a common feature among groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but data on the association between diet and COVID-19 risk and severity are lacking.”
Past research suggested that good nutrition has a direct impact on reducing infectious diseases.
These studies have reported that the replication of common human coronaviruses such as 229E and SARS-CoV-1 were halted when linoleic or arachidonic acid were administrated to patients.
The others found an association between specific dietary supplements and nutrients with reduced risk of COVID infection.
During 2020, the present research followed up 592,571 residents in the UK and the US.
To assess the quality of diet, participants were asked about their dietary habits before the pandemic.
The team used a scoring system that included food categories like vegetables, fruits, oily fish, fat, and sugary products.
The unhealthiest food group scored 1 and the healthiest scored 3 points.
They found that those with a high diet quality were less likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19.
Participants in the highest quartile of the diet score were 9 percent less likely to become ill with coronavirus disease and 41 percent less likely to develop severe illness.
Dr Merino said:
“These findings were consistent across a range of sensitivity analysis accounting for other healthy behaviors, social determinants of health and community virus transmission rates.”
Dr Andrew Chan, study co-author, said:
“Although we cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in crowded indoor settings, our study suggests that individuals can also potentially reduce their risk of getting COVID-19 or having poor outcomes by paying attention to their diet.”
Moreover, the negative health impact of poor diet was found to be even bigger when accompanied with low-socioeconomic status.
Dr Merino said:
“Our findings are a call to governments and stakeholders to prioritize healthy diets and wellbeing with impactful policies, otherwise we risk losing decades of economic progress and a substantial increase in health disparities.”
The study was published in the journal GUT (Merino et al., 2021).