In a new study from Northwestern Medicine, researchers found coffee consumption and eating lots of vegetables may offer some protection against COVID-19.
They also found being breastfed may also offer protection as well as eating less processed meats.
The researchers believe this is the first study using population data to examine the role of specific dietary intake in the prevention of COVID-19.
A person’s nutrition impacts immunity. And the immune system plays a key role in an individual’s susceptibility and response to infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
In the study, the team used data from the UK Biobank and examined the associations between dietary behaviors measured in 2006-2010 and COVID-19 infections in March to December 2020, before vaccines were available.
Among the 37,988 participants tested for COVID-19 and included in the study, 17% tested positive.
They found one or more cups of coffee per day was associated with about a 10% decrease in risk of COVID-19 compared to less than one cup per day.
Consumption of at least 0.67 servings per day of vegetables (cooked or raw, excluding potatoes) was linked to a lower risk of COVID-19 infection.
Processed meat consumption of as little as 0.43 servings per day was associated with a higher risk of COVID-19. Having been breastfed as a baby reduced the risk by 10% compared to not having been breastfed.
The exact mechanisms linking these diet factors to COVID are unknown.
The team says coffee is a major source of caffeine, but there are also dozens of other compounds that may potentially underlie the protective associations.
Associations with processed meat, but not red meat, point to non-meat factors.
While the study shows diet appears to modestly reduce disease risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccines as the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death.
COVID-19 vaccines also reduce the risk of people spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
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The study is published in Nutrients. One author of the study is Marilyn Cornelis.
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