Food is one of the pillars of health. Along these lines, a new study of six countries, published in the journal «
BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health», Has discovered that plant-based and / or fish-based diets (pescetariana) can help reduce your chances of having a severe Covid-19 infection by 73% and 59% respectively.
Different investigations have suggested that diet could play an important role in the severity of symptoms and the duration of the disease, but, so far, there is little evidence to confirm or refute this theory.
In order to explore this further, the researchers relied on the responses of the survey of 2,884 doctors and nurses front-line with extensive exposure to SARS-COV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19 infection, working in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
All participants were part of a global network of healthcare professionals registered with the Survey Healthcare Globus network for healthcare market research. The researchers used this network to identify doctors at high risk for Covid-19 infection in their work.
The online survey, which was developed between July and September 2020, was designed to obtain detailed information on the dietary patterns of the participants, based on a frequency questionnaire of consumption of 47 foods, during the previous year, and the severity of any Covid-19 infection they may have had, using objective criteria. Information on personal history, medical history, medication use, and lifestyle was also collected.
The various diets were classified as: plant-based (higher in vegetables, legumes and nuts, and lower in poultry and red and processed meats); pescetarian / plant-based (like above, but with added fish / shellfish); and low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets.
Some 568 respondents said they had had symptoms consistent with Covid-19 infection or no symptoms, but a positive test for infection; while 2,316 indicated that they had neither had any symptoms nor tested positive (comparison group).
Among the 568 cases, 138 doctors said they had had a moderate to severe Covid-19 infection; the remaining 430 said they had had a very mild to mild infection.
After taking into account different potentially influential variables, including age, ethnicity, medical specialty, and lifestyle (smoking, physical activity), respondents who said they consumed plant-based or plant-based diets and fish had, respectively, 73% and 59% less likely to suffer from moderate to severe Covid-19, compared to those who did not have these dietary patterns.
And compared to those who ate a plant-based diet, those who followed a low-carb, high-protein diet were nearly 4 times more likely to have a moderate to severe Covid-19 infection.
These associations held even when weight (BMI) and coexisting medical conditions were taken into account. But no association was observed between any type of diet and the risk of contracting the virus or the duration of the subsequent illness.
Being an observational study, no cause can be established, only correlation. In addition, it has other limitations such as that it was based on individual memory about the food consumed rather than on objective evaluations, and the definition of certain dietary patterns may vary by country, the researchers note. Men outnumbered women in the study, so the findings may not apply to them, they add.
But what is clear is that plant-based diets are rich in nutrients, especially phytochemicals (polyphenols, carotenoids), vitamins and minerals, all of which are important for maintaining a healthy immune system, the researchers recall. In addition, fish is an important source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. “Our results suggest that a healthy diet rich in nutritious foods should be considered for protection against severe Covid-19,” they conclude.
‘A high-quality diet is important to generate an adequate immune response, which in turn can influence the susceptibility to infection and its severity. This study highlights the need for better-designed prospective studies on the association between diet, nutritional status, and COVID-19 outcomes, ”said NNEdPro Nutrition Covid-19 Task Force Vice Chair Shane McAuliffe.