According to the study published in The BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health, people who follow a plant-based diet are 73 per cent less likely to be hit by Covid-19.
Harvard Medical School and King’s College London led the research based on people who use the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app.
Back in the autumn of 2020, they asked them to fill in a detailed diet questionnaire about the food they were eating before and during the pandemic. More than 600,000 of contributors took part in the study to help identify a diet that may help protect from severe symptoms of Covid-19. From the 600,000 app users, 32,000 caught Covid-19.
The study discovered that people who eat higher high quality, plant-rich diets and fewer processed foods have a better microbes in their guts, which are linked to better health and immune system. According to researches, the best foods to be consumed during the pandemic are fresh fruits and veggies including legumes, whole grains, like porridge and wholemeal bread and fish.
The researchers found that people who ate the highest quality diet were around 10% less likely to develop COVID-19 than those with the lowest quality diet, and 40% less likely to become severely ill if they developed COVID-19.
The relationship between diet quality and COVID-19 risk was still there after accounting for age, body mass index (BMI), ethnicity, physical activity and underlying health conditions.
It still unknown how diet helps to cut the risk from COVID-19 infection, but study co-lead, Professor Andrew Chan MD, MPH from Massachusetts General Hospital, and professor at Harvard Medical School, suspects that inflammation may be playing a role.
He said: “Diet quality is an established risk factor for many conditions that are known to have an inflammatory basis. Our study demonstrates that this may also hold true for COVID-19, a virus which is known to provoke a severe inflammatory response.”
The study discovered that living in low-income neighbourhoods and having the lowest quality diet had around 25% more at risk from COVID-19 than people in wealthier communities who were eating the same food. Researches concluded that nearly a quarter of COVID-19 cases could have been prevented if these differences in diet quality and wealth had not existed.
Dr Sarah Berry, study co-lead and Reader in nutritional sciences at King’s College London, said: “For the first time we’ve been able to show that a healthier diet can cut the chances of catching COVID-19, especially for people living in more deprived areas. Access to healthier food is important to everyone in society, but our findings tell us that helping those living in poorer areas to eat more healthily could have the biggest public health benefits.”