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Plant-based eaters are more protected against severe Covid-19, new study finds


The study examining data of nearly 3000 healthcare workers from six countries to explore the connection between dietary patterns and COVID-19 found plant-based eaters had 73 % lower odds of a ‘moderate-to-severe’ course of infection.

Plant-based eaters are considerably more protected against severe COVID-19 in comparison to meat-eaters, according to a new study.

The research published in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health, examined data from six countries to explore the connection between dietary patterns and COVID-19.

It analyzed data obtained from healthcare workers from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the USA who had “significant exposure to Covid-19 patients”.


Around 3000 respondents answered a web-based survey between July and September 2020 providing details on demographic characteristics, dietary patterns and COVID-19 outcomes.

While 2,316 of the participants had not been infected with the virus, 568 had.

Among those who tested positive for Covid-19, 138 reported moderate to severe symptoms while 430 said they had suffered only a mild or a very mild form of the illness.

Dietary impact on COVID-19 severity

Researchers ‘after adjusting for important confounders’, found that those following plant-based diets had 73% lower odds of moderate-to-severe COVID-19 severity while those eating ‘plant-based diets or pescatarian’ were 59% less likely to suffer from the infection when compared with participants who did not follow these diets.

 Also, those who reported following ‘low carbohydrate, high protein diets’ were found to be at greater odds of moderate-to-severe COVID-19.

The authors concluded: “In six countries, plant-based diets or pescatarian diets were associated with lower odds of moderate-to-severe Covid-19.

“These dietary patterns may be considered for protection against severe Covid-19.”

Eating plant-based ‘tends’ to help

Commenting on the study, Professor Francois Balloux of the UCL Genetics Institute said: “The study reports that doctors eating plant-based or pescatarian diets tend to be at significantly lower risk of developing severe Covid-19 symptoms upon infection.

“The sample size is decent, and the analyses look competently performed. Further validation may be required to confirm a direct, causal link between diet and Covid-19 illness severity.

“Indeed, unaccounted lifestyle variables correlated with diet might influence general health of the subjects of the study, and hence how well they coped with Covid-19 infection.”


However, professor of nutrition and food science Gunter Kuhnle from the University of Reading pointed out some of the limitations of the study.

He told The Independent there has been a lot of ‘speculation’ about the impact of diet on disease risk since the pandemic started.

While the study does attempt to answer the question, it relies on self-reporting, which can lead to unreliable and unverifiable data.

Kuhnle further added: “In this study, participants were asked about their diet after they were diagnosed with Covid-19, and this might lead to further misreporting, especially among participants who are interested in a potential link between diet and disease.

“Finally, the study has been conducted in different countries with widely different diets – a plant-based diet in Spain or Italy is likely to be different from a mainly plant-based diet in Germany or the UK.”

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