Scientists revealed that people eating healthy plant-based foods had lower risks on both counts, including Covid-19 infection and the severity of the disease. They further found that people living in the high socio-economic deprived areas had the relevant, beneficial effects of their diet on the risk of COVID-19 infection. Even though obesity and type 2 diabetes are metabolic conditions, they have been associated with the risk of Coronavirus infection. In addition, these conditions also involve experiencing severe symptoms of the disease. However, the effect of diet on these risk factors has not been identified yet.
The study was recently published in a scientific journal Gut titled “Diet quality and risk and severity of Covid-19: A prospective cohort study”.
The survey involved a Covid-19 Symptom Study using smartphones
Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that plant-based healthy foods in the diet could lower the risks on both counts that are Covid-19 infection and its severity. Dr. Jordi Merino is one of the associate researchers in the Center for Genomic Medicine and Diabetes Unit at MGH. He is a lead author of this study and a researcher of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Past studies have shown that malnutrition is the common feature observed in groups, which affects pandemics disproportionately, said Merino. Unfortunately, past research did not have enough data on the links between diet and risk and severity of Covid-19.
In this study, Merino and his team surveyed extensive data, including 592,571 participants. They were all involved in the Covid-19 Symptom Study based on smartphones. They lived either in the UK or in the US. Researchers recruited them from 24th March 2020 and followed them until 2nd December 2020. At the beginning of this research, researchers completed a survey including a questionnaire. The survey involved questions asking each participant about their dietary habits earlier this pandemic. Additionally, by using a beneficial Plant-Based Diet Score, they examined the quality of each participant’s diet. The Plant-Based Diet Score emphasizes healthy foods based on plant sources, including fruits and vegetables.
A plant-based diet can cut down the risk of Covid-19 infection and severity of symptoms
About 31,831 individuals got Covid-19 infection during that follow-up. The individuals living in the highest quarters had a 9% reduced risk of Covid-19 and a 41% reduced risk of severe COVID-19 conditions than those with the lowest quarter of the diet scores.
Merino further said that during the study, researchers obtained consistent findings across a range of sensitivity examined. It involved healthy behaviors, community virus transmission rates, and other social health factors.
Andrew Chan, MD, MPH, is the head of the department and gastroenterologist at the MGH in the clinical and translational epidemiology unit. He is also a senior co-author of the study. He said that although this study does not emphasize the importance of wearing masks and vaccinations in crowded indoor areas, it suggests that people may improve their eating habits to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection. It can also reduce the risk of severe consequences of this infection.
Diets and socioeconomic deprivation associated with the risk of Covid-19 infection
The study also found a link between eating unhealthy foods and socioeconomic deprivation with the risk of COVID-19 infection. In addition, researchers found this risk greater than the total risk associated with every factor alone.
Merino added these models suggest that they could prevent approximately one-third of cases of Coronavirus infection if any of two exposures, such as socioeconomic deprivation or poor diet, were not present.
Public health strategies can take part in the encumbrance of the current epidemic
The findings also reveal that public health strategies may help cut down the encumbrance of Covid-19 epidemics. They can work by addressing the social health factors and improving the accessibility of healthy foods.
The study outcomes call stakeholders and governments to prioritize wellbeing with effective policies and healthy diets. Otherwise, we have risks of a considerable rise in health disparities and losing economic progress of many decades,” said Merino.
The study was conducted in support of several investigators at King’s College London. It involved the efforts of many co-researchers that include Long H Nguyen, Amit D Joshi, Mohsen Mazidi, Emily R Leeming, Rachel Gibson, Mark S Graham, David A Drew, Joan Capdevila, Chun-Han Lo, Christina Hu, Benjamin Murray, Somesh Selvachandran, Shilpa N Bhupathiraju, Alexander Hammers, Carole Sudre, Shreela V Sharma, Christina M Astley, Sohee Kwon, Jorge E Chavarro, Cristina Menni, Wenjie Ma, Walter C Willett, Paul W Franks, Claire J Steves, Sebastien Ourselin, Jonathan Wolf, Sarah Berry, Timothy D Spector, and Andrew T Chan.
In addition, the study also involved massive funding provided by a range of funding agencies and trusts. They include the American Diabetes Association, the Wellcome Trust, the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness, the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council / Medical Research Council, the American Gastroenterological Association, the National Institute for Health Research, the Alzheimer’s Society, the National Institutes of Health, and Zoe Ltd.
A past study also showed that Pescatarian or plant-based diets could reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection
In addition, several past studies have also suggested the benefit of a healthy diet in reducing the risk of Covid-19 infection. For example, a study published in the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention and Health in July 2021 has also suggested that taking a Pescatarian diet or eating plant-based foods is potentially less likely to develop COVID-19 infection in a moderate to severe intensity. During that study, researchers found that people who followed the pescatarian diet plan had about 59% reduced odds of developing severe illness due to Coronavirus. However, the percentage jumped to 73% for the individuals following a plant-based diet, such as vegetables and fruits.
However, the scientists were not sure about any causal reasons behind the beneficial effects of plant-based healthy diets. Instead, they only identified the correlation between diet habits with the severity of the COVID infection.
The outcomes of past studies may not apply to women
By comparing the data of the individuals who ate only plant-based foods to those who took a high-protein, low-carb diet, the latter one was about four times more likely to develop a moderate to severe COVID-19 infection. That study involved a survey of 2,884 frontline nurses and doctors. All the participants across several countries were extensively exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These countries included France, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the US. Additionally, researchers also took all the potentially influential factors under their account. These factors included medical specialty, ethnicity, BMI, lifestyle (such as physical activity and smoking), and co-existing medical conditions while determining the critical findings of the study. However, that past study has some gaps. For example, the investigation had more men than women. It means the results may not be appropriate for females. In contrast, the recent research is applicable for both men and women.
What is a Pescatarian diet plan?
A Pescatarian diet does not have any meat but contains seafood and fish. In the early 1990s, the term pescatarian was first used. It combines two words, one is Italian, “pesce,” meaning fish, and the other is the English, “vegetarian.” Pescatarian can also spell “pescetarian,” having the same meaning. However, people often define this diet as “pesco-vegetarian” in scientific literature. Thus, a pescatarian is a dieter who follows a vegetarian diet but also eats seafood and fish.
This diet plan primarily includes plant-based foods, such as nuts, whole grains, legumes, seafood, and healthy fats. Seafood plays a significant role in providing healthy protein. Despite this, many pescatarians also eat eggs and dairy.
With the Pescatarian diet plan, it is possible to follow a meat-free diet. It is also full of veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, whole grains, eggs, beans, fish, and dairy.
In a recent study published in the Gut, researchers found that eating plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, could reduce the risks of Covid-19 infection and the severity of the symptoms. Additionally, the study further suggested that people living in the areas of high socioeconomic deprivation had beneficial effects of diet on the risk of this infection. Several previous studies have also confirmed the outcomes of this study. For example, a study published last July showed that plant-based foods or Pescatarian diets could lower the risk of Covid-19 infection.
During the recent study, researchers used extensive data of a smartphone-based Covid-19 Symptom Study. This survey involved questions about the diet habits of each participant living in the UK and the USA. They found that people living with a high diet score had a lower risk of Covid-19 infection and its severity than those living with the lowest diet score. In addition, they also found that socioeconomic deprivation and diets are linked to the risk of Covid-19 infection. In conclusion, the finding calls the private and public sectors to improve the general health strategies. These strategies can play a fundamental role in the encumbrance of the current epidemic.