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A recent study published in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health suggests that individuals following a mostly plant-based or vegetarian diet have a 39% lower risk of contracting COVID-19. The research proposes that a diet high in legumes, vegetables, and nuts, and low in meat and dairy products may contribute to reducing the susceptibility to the virus.

Diet may play a role in COVID-19 development and its severity

Researchers in Brazil investigated the connection between diet and COVID-19 among 702 adults. The study focused on how dietary patterns affect the prevalence, severity, and duration of the infection. Participants provided information on their typical diets, medical history, COVID-19 vaccination status, and lifestyle. Previous research has suggested that diet may play a significant role in influencing the development and severity of COVID-19 and its complications.

The researchers divided participants into two dietary groups: omnivorous (424 individuals) and predominantly plant-based (278 individuals). Within the plant-based group, there were flexitarians (87 participants), who ate meat up to three times a week, and vegetarians, including vegans (191 participants). Individuals following plant-based or vegetarian diets tended to have higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, and nuts, while reducing or eliminating dairy and meat intake.

A study comparing omnivorous and plant-based groups found no significant differences in sex, age, or vaccination rates. However, the plant-based group had a higher proportion with postgraduate education. Omnivores reported more medical conditions, lower physical activity, and a higher prevalence of overweight or obesity, increasing the risk of severe COVID-19 complications.

Omnivores likely to contact COVID than vegetarians

Out of all participants, 47% contracted COVID-19. The omnivorous group had a significantly higher incidence (52%) than the plant-based group (40%), and they were more prone to moderate/severe infection, though symptom duration did not differ.

After accounting for factors like weight, medical conditions, and physical activity, researchers observed no significant difference in COVID-19 symptom severity between plant-based and omnivorous diets. However, individuals on plant-based diets had a 39% lower likelihood of contracting the virus. Researchers suggest that plant-based diets may provide immune system-strengthening nutrients, potentially aiding in viral infection defense.