What’s the best diet for COVID-19 protection? New research claims that plant-based diets “may be considered for protection against severe COVID-19!”
I’ve posted on the plantbased.com blog more than 400 times since COVID-19 began its global spread. But I’ve rarely mentioned the virus.
Covid-19 is such a recent pandemic that thorough research on how specific diets affect it wasn’t available until now.
That changed on June 7, 2021, when the peer-reviewed journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health published a Columbia University study seeking the best diet for Covid-19 protection.
The Best Diet for Covid-19? International Doctors Participate!
The study included 2,884 healthcare workers with “high rates of exposure” to Covid-19 from working directly with infected patients.
Nearly 95 percent of the study’s participants were front-line physicians in medical clinics, hospitals, or emergency rooms.
(Because they were overwhelmingly physicians, I’ll refer to the enrollees as “doctors” even though a small percentage of nurses or other healthcare workers also participated.)
The doctors provided such accurate information that the study contains a wealth of “high-quality data.” not only that, but it enrolled physicians from six countries, including:
- the UK
and the United States.
The researchers asked if the doctors had followed one of several diets for “all of the past year” directly preceding the pandemic. The choices included:
- Whole-foods, plant-based
- High Protein
- Low Fat
- None of the above
The goal was to establish which were the doctors’ usual, long-term diets.
In reporting their findings, the researchers combined the diets into three groups:
- Whole-food, plant-based with Vegetarian.
- Whole-food, plant-based with Vegetarian and Pescatarian.
- Low-Carbohydrates with High Protein
(Why did they “double count” the plant-based and vegetarian diets by adding them to pescatarian? Combining the pescatarian and Mediterranean diest would have made more sense! Seems fishy to me.)
Naturally, the doctors following the plant-based diets consumed the most vegetables, legumes, and nuts. They also ate less poultry and red or processed meat and drank fewer sugary or alcoholic beverages.
When filling out a survey between July 17 and September 25, 2020, 568 of them (about 20 percent) reported having Covid-19 infections.
The severity of their symptoms could be:
- Very Mild: none or almost no symptoms.
- Mild: symptoms similar to a light cold with or without cough.
- Moderate: fever, respiratory symptoms, and/or signs of pneumonia.
- Severe: respiratory distress, low oxygen.
- Critical: admitted to ICU, respiratory failure in need of ventilation, shock, or organ failure.
Thankfully, none of them developed a critical condition.
To ensure that diet alone was responsible for the outcomes, the researchers carefully adjusted the data for confounding factors such as:
- physical activity
and pre-existing conditions.
After the adjustments, undeniable evidence revealed what diet is best for Covid-19 protection.
- Eating whole-food plant-based and vegetarian diets increased the likelihood of having very mild or mild symptoms.
- It also reduced the odds of developing moderate or severe symptoms by 73 percent! No other diet came close to approaching this level of protection.
In the researchers’ words, plant-based diets “rich in nutrient-dense foods may be considered for protection against severe COVID-19.”
They recommended further research to determine which micronutrients make plant-based eating the best diet for Covid-19 protection. The list of potential candidates is a lengthy one:
- Vitamins A, C, D, and E
- minerals (magnesium, potassium, and iron)
They suggest that these nutrients support the immune system by aiding in antibody production and lymphocyte proliferation. They also reduce oxidative stress.
Being deficient in plant-based micronutrients may weaken the immune system and “foster an environment which promotes the growth of the virus.”
My blog has discussed multiple studies pointing to the astounding immune system benefits of a plant-based diet, but this is the first time I’ve seen a study revealing the best diet for Covid-19.
For me to finally see research supporting the idea that a plant-based diet is effective in fighting the worst of Covid-19 is beyond exciting!