A new scientific study shows that people on a plant-based diet are less likely to exhibit serious symptoms of COVID-19 than those who eat animal products like meat and dairy. 

The first scientific study analyzing plant-based diets and COVID-19 symptom severity was just published on June 7, 2021 in the BMJ Journal for Nutrition, Prevention, and Health. Researchers from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Envision Health Partners, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and Columbia University focused on healthcare workers from six different nations to better understand any associations between overall diet and COVID-19.

The results were astounding: participants who followed plant-based diets experienced a 73 percent less risk of developing moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms while those who maintained low-carbohydrate, high animal protein diets were more likely to contract more serious symptoms.

The study

Five hundred and sixty-eight frontline physicians and nurses from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the US were surveyed for this study. Their close proximity to COVID-19 patients and subsequent high risk of infection made this demographic a prime target for infectious disease researchers. As we all have learned this past year, pre-existing conditions play a role in the severity of COVID-19 symptoms – obesity, diabetes, and heart disease among these ailments. Researchers point out that these issues run high in economically advantaged countries – like the US and European nations – where “poor nutrition and unfavourable lifestyle choices (eg, physical inactivity or sedentary behavior)” drive the development of these pre-existing conditions. While vaccinations now offer temporary protection against the COVID-19 virus, this work shall contribute to the larger body of research that helps medical experts understand the associations between certain dietary patterns and infectious disease.

Data was collected from participants using a 100+ question survey that addressed participants’ medical history, COVID-19 experience, and dietary patterns over the course of the past year.

The results

Based on participants’ data, researchers concluded that individuals who consumed plant-based diets significantly lowered their risk of contracting moderate to severe COVID-19. Alternatively, individuals who identified as low carb, high protein eaters (such as paleo and keto) were far more likely to experience severe symptoms. By the numbers, those who followed a plant-based diet had 73 percent lower odds of experiencing moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms. In comparison, low carb, high protein diets were three times as likely to report moderate to severe symptoms.

Note: while it is possible to follow a low carb, high protein diet and remain plant-based, the detailed food recall survey indicated that these individuals ate meat, dairy, and other animal products. Those who followed a plant-based diet consumed far more vegetables, nuts, and legumes compared to the high protein participants.

Plant-based diets as first defence

A growing body of evidence suggests that plant-based diets may not only play a preventative role in chronic disease, but they can also decrease the severity of infectious disease. Researchers hypothesize that the abundance of nutrients and antioxidants found in plant-based foods support immune function by playing a key role in the production of antibodies and reducing oxidative stress. The conclusion boldly states, “Our results suggest that a healthy diet rich in nutrient-dense foods may be considered for protection against severe COVID-19.”

The results indicate that health is determined by consistency over time. It’s not enough to do a cleanse once a quarter or eat vegan until 6pm – it’s about lifestyle, and those who refrain from dairy and other animal-based foods set themselves up for better health. There are many factors we cannot control – COVID-19 being a recent example – but by adhering to a plant-based diet, we can equip our bodies to handle the unknown. A dairy-free, plant-based diet is an effective yet severely underutilised defence against disease. Note: this doesn’t mean a plant-based diet can stand in for the vaccine.

Original source: https://switch4good.org