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More Plant-Based Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Covid-19 and its Complications

Source: Journal, Gut (September 2021)


A large study published in the journal, Gut, in September 2021, showed that individuals who routinely consume a more plant-based diet are less prone to contract Covid-19 infections, and less prone to having serious symptoms if they contract the Covid-19 virus. Many of us in the nutritional medicine world have suspected that this was the case, but this large-scale study, involving almost 600,000 people in the U.K. and the U.S., has provided compelling evidence for this assertion. 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 the risk of Covid-19 infections and its complications has not been highlighted in mainstream messaging. Previous reports suggest that poor nutrition is a common feature among groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but data on the association between diet and COVID-19 risk and severity were lacking until this recent study in the journal Gut.

The study examined data on 592,571 participants of the smartphone-based COVID-19 Symptom Study, and followed them from March 24, 2020, 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-Based Diet Score. The study showed that those with the top Plant-Based Diet Score (in the top 25%) had a 9% lower risk of developing COVID-19 and a 41% lower risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms and complications. In other words, the healthier the diet, the lower was risk of infection and complications from Covid-19. As Dr. Merino stated, “These findings were consistent across a range of sensitivity analysis accounting for other healthy behaviors, and social determinants of health and community virus transmission rates”. Co-researcher, Dr Andrew Chan (Gastroenterologist) went on to state, “Although we cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in crowded indoor settings, our study suggests that individuals can also potentially reduce their risk of getting COVID-19 or having poor outcomes by paying attention to their diet”. Dr. Merino concluded that the models estimate that nearly a third of COVID-19 cases would have been prevented if either healthier, more plant-based diets were more common across the population, and improvements were made in socioeconomic circumstances that lead to unhealthy food choices that often produce nutrient deficiencies and marginal nutrient deficiencies. Dr. Merino stated, “Our findings are a call to governments and stakeholders to prioritize healthy diets and wellbeing with impactful policies, otherwise we risk losing decades of economic progress and a substantial increase in health disparities.”

The bottom line is that specific nutrient are required to support the body’s immune system. I have provided a number of lifestyle medicine update videos on this subject in the past, featuring the role of specific nutrients of importance, including the scientific references that support these facts. In my view, it’s unfortunate that health authorities have not yet emphasized the importance of evidence-based dietary strategies, lifestyle, and nutritional medicine to help support immune function, as an adjunct to vaccinations, social distancing and wearing masks, during the recent pandemic. The September 2021 study published in the journal, Gut, adds to the growing number of studies demonstrating the importance of nutrition, lifestyle and nutritional medicine practices that can support our immune system, many of which are associated with reduced risk of Covid-19 infections and it’s more serious complications.

I have included the study reference in the text below

References:

1. Main Reference: Jordi Merino, Amit D Joshi, Long H Nguyen, Emily R Leeming, Mohsen Mazidi, David A Drew, Rachel Gibson, Mark S Graham, Chun-Han Lo, Joan Capdevila, Benjamin Murray, Christina Hu, Somesh Selvachandran, Alexander Hammers, Shilpa N Bhupathiraju, Shreela V Sharma, Carole Sudre, Christina M Astley, Jorge E Chavarro, Sohee Kwon, Wenjie Ma, Cristina Menni, Walter C Willett, Sebastien Ourselin, Claire J Steves, Jonathan Wolf, Paul W Franks, Timothy D Spector, Sarah Berry, Andrew T Chan. Diet quality and risk and severity of COVID-19: a prospective cohort study. Gut, 2021;