Eating a predominantly plant-based or vegetarian diet high in vegetables, legumes, nuts, is linked to 39 per cent lower odds of Covid-19 infection, claims a research. Researchers from the Universidade de Sao Paulo in Brazil also claimed that a diet low in dairy products and meat may help to ward off the infection.
“Plant-based dietary patterns are rich in antioxidants, phytosterols and polyphenols, which positively affect several cell types implicated in the immune function and exhibit direct antiviral properties,” the team wrote in the study, published in the open access journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health.
In the study, the team set out to evaluate the potential impact of dietary patterns on the incidence, severity, and duration of Covid-19 infection among 702 adult volunteers all of whom were recruited between March and July 2022. They were divided into either omnivorous (424) or predominantly plant-based (278) dietary groups.
The plant-based food group was further divided into flexitarians/semi-vegetarians who ate meat three or fewer times a week (87); and vegetarians and vegans (191).
The omnivores reported a higher rate of medical conditions and lower rates of physical activity. And the prevalence of overweight and obesity was significantly higher among the omnivores — all factors associated with higher Covid-19 infection risk and more severe symptoms/complications.
In all, 330 people (47 per cent) said that they had had Covid-19 infection. Of these, 224 (32 per cent) said they had mild symptoms and 106 (15 per cent) had moderate to severe symptoms.
The omnivores had a significantly higher reported incidence of Covid-19 than the plant-based dietary groups: 52 per cent vs 40 per cent. And they were more likely to have had moderate to severe infection:18 per cent vs just over 11 per cent.
There was no difference, however, in how long symptoms lasted, the researchers said.
But those following a predominantly plant-based or vegetarian/vegan diet were 39 per cent less likely to become infected than the omnivores.
It may be that predominantly plant-based diets provide more nutrients that boost the immune system and help to fight viral infections, they suggest, by way of an explanation for their findings.
The team noted that “this is an observational study, however, and as such, can’t establish causal factors”. The researchers also acknowledge that the study relied on personal recall and subjective assessment, both of which are prone to error.
Nevertheless, “in light of these findings and the findings of other studies, and because of the importance of identifying factors that can influence the incidence of Covid-19, we recommend the practice of following plant-based diets or vegetarian dietary patterns,” they said.
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