In a new study from Johns Hopkins and elsewhere, researchers found that plant-based and/or fish (pescatarian) diets may help lower the odds of developing moderate to severe COVID-19 infection.
They were linked to 73% and 59% lower risks, respectively, of severe disease, the findings indicate.
Several studies have suggested that diet might have an important role in symptom severity and illness duration of COVID-19 infection. But, as yet, there’s little evidence to confirm or refute this theory.
In the study, the team drew on the survey responses of 2884 frontline doctors and nurses with extensive exposure to SARS-CO-v2, the virus responsible for COVID-19 infection, working in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US.
The various diets were combined into plant-based (higher in vegetables, legumes, and nuts, and lower in poultry and red and processed meats); pescatarian/plant-based (as above, but with added fish/seafood); and low carb high protein diets.
The team found respondents who said they ate plant-based diets’ or plant-based/pescatarian diets had, respectively, 73% and 59% lower odds of moderate to severe COVID-19 infection, compared with those who didn’t have these dietary patterns.
And compared with those who said they ate a plant-based diet, those who said they ate a low carb-high protein diet had nearly 4 times the risks of moderate to severe COVID-19 infection.
These associations held true when weight (BMI) and co-existing medical conditions were also factored in.
But no association was observed between any type of diet and the risk of contracting COVID-19 infection or length of the subsequent illness.
The team says plant-based diets are rich in nutrients, especially phytochemicals (polyphenols, carotenoids), vitamins and minerals, all of which are important for a healthy immune system.
And fish is an important source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties.
The results suggest that a healthy diet rich in nutrient-dense foods may be considered for protection against severe COVID-19.
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The study is published in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health. One author of the study is Hyunju Kim.
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