A healthy plant-based diet was linked to a lower risk of getting COVID-19, and among people with COVID-19, a lower risk of experiencing severe symptoms. There was a synergistic relationship between poor diet and increased socioeconomic deprivation with COVID-19 risk that was higher than the sum of the risk associated with each factor alone.
Although metabolic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes have been linked to an increased risk of COVID-19, as well as an increased risk of experiencing serious symptoms once infected, the impact of diet on these risks is unknown. In a recent study led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and published in Gut, people whose diets were based on healthy plant-based foods had lower risks on both counts. The beneficial effects of diet on COVID-19 risk seemed especially relevant in individuals living in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation.
For the study, Merino and his colleagues examined data on 592,571 participants of the smartphone-based COVID-19 Symptom Study. Participants lived in the UK and the US, and they were recruited from March 24, 2020 and followed until December 2, 2020. At the start of the study, participants completed a questionnaire that asked about their dietary habits before the pandemic. Diet quality was assessed using a healthful Plant-BasedDiet Score that emphasises healthy plant foods such as fruits and vegetables.
During follow-up, 31,831 participants developed COVID-19. Compared with individuals in the lowest quartile of the diet score, those in the highest quartile had a 9% lower risk of developing COVID-19 and a 41% lower risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Release date: 08 September 2021
Source: Massachusetts General Hospital