STAMFORD, CONN. — A study appearing online in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health on June 8 found an association between consumption of plants and fish and lower chances of COVID-19 infection. Those on a plant-based diet and those on a plant-based/pescatarian diet had 73% lower odds and 59% lower odds, respectively, of moderate to severe COVID-19 infection compared to those who did not follow those dietary patterns.
The study involved researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Conn., and Columbia University in New York.
The researchers conducted an online survey from July through September of 2020 and gathered responses from 2,884 doctors and nurses with “extensive” exposure to SARS-CO-v2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. The doctors and nurses, all part of the SurveyHealthcareGlobus network for health care market research, worked in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The survey included a 47-item food frequency questionnaire, and it asked about the severity of any COVID-19 infections the doctors and nurses had experienced.
Of the 2,884 respondents, 568 said they either had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection or no symptoms but a positive swab test for COVID-19.
Plant-based diets were those higher in vegetables, legumes and nuts and lower in poultry and red and processed meats. Adding fish and seafood to plant-based diets made them pescatarian/plant-based diets. Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets were the third diet.
The researchers pointed out plant-based diets are rich in nutrients, especially phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals that are important for a healthy immune system. Fish are a source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties.
“Our results suggest that a healthy diet rich in nutrient-dense foods may be considered for protection against severe COVID-19,” the researchers concluded.