A new study recently revealed that consuming a vegetarian or pescatarian diet helps reduce one's risk of developing severe COVID-19 infection when compared to meat-eaters.
A Mail Online report specified that plant-based vegetarians decrease the risk of moderate to severe infection of the virus by up to 73 percent, and a fish-based pescatarian diet lessens the risk by 59 percent.
Previous studies have shown an association between diet and the COVID-19 infection's severity and duration which the research team wanted to investigate in more detail.
Drawing on a study of more than 2,800 frontline doctors and nurses who were exposed to the virus from July to September last year, the team from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore Maryland studied diet and the risk of COVID-19 infection.
The study, "Plant-based diets, pescatarian diets and COVID-19 severity: a population-based case-control study in six countries", was published in the BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health journal.
Remarkable Link Between Meat Avoidance and COVID-19 Severity
Researchers looked at the diet, medical background or history and occurrences of COVID-19 among the study participants. It found a remarkable link between meat avoidance that lessened the risk of COVID infection.
The research was a "self-reported observational study" and the researchers could not say with certainty that meat avoidance was the reason for the lessened risk of infection. They suspected however that it may be because increased intake of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals included in a plant-based diet is essential for a healthy immune system.
Participants involved in the study faced extensive exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection.
They were working in different countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, and were all part of the market research network called the Survey Healthcare Globus.
The study authors used the network to identify medical front liners which included nurses and doctors who were at high risk of infection from COVID-19 as a result of their job.
The survey collected information on the participants' personal background, their medical history, use of medications and lifestyle.
3 Diets Explored
The researchers explored three diets, including that which is plant-based that was richer in vegetable than meat, pescatarian, as described in the WebMD website, that was rich in vegetable and fish, and a low-carb, high-protein diet.
Among the participants involved in the study, 568 reported they had COVID-19 symptoms or were asymptomatic although they tested positive for the virus. Another group of 2,316 individuals said they had not had any symptoms or had negative swab test result.
Of the 568 cases, 138 clinical practitioners reported they experienced moderate to severe COVID-19 infection while the remaining 430 said they experienced very mild to mild symptoms.
The researchers then factored in various variables which included age, medical specialty, ethnicity and lifestyle factors as well as levels of physical activity and smoking.
The researchers found that among those who took part in the survey, those who consumed plant- or fish-based diet had substantially lower chances of COVID infection, compared to meat-eaters.
To compare, those eating low-carb, high-protein diets had four times the chances of developing a moderate to severe COVID-19 infection than the vegetarians or plant-eaters.
Meaning, the researchers said, eating plant-based, vegetarian diets may increase the chances of avoiding a severe case of COVID-19 if infected.
An Observational Study
Such links held true when weight and co-existing medical conditions were factored in. However, no link was observed between any diet type, and the risk of developing COVID-19 infection or duration of the COVID illness.
There are several issues with the study, including the fact that males outnumbered females, and thus the findings may not be applicable to females, the researchers pointed out.
The research was an observational study and cannot establish cause, just correlation. It depended on individual recall instead of objective analyses. The definition of specific dietary patterns may differ according to the country, the study investigators pointed out.
The researchers suggest that a healthy diet high in nutrient-dense foods may be considered to increase protection from severe COVID-19 infection.
Nonetheless, the team said, a high-quality diet is essential for mounting an adequate immune response which in turn can affect vulnerability to COVID-19 infection.
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