Study: Plant-Based Diet Reduces Risk and Severity of COVID-19

According to a new peer-reviewed study a “dietary pattern characterized by healthy plant-based foods was associated with lower risk and severity of COVID-19.”

According to the study, “Poor metabolic health and certain lifestyle factors have been associated with risk and severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but data for diet are lacking.” With this in mind, researchers “aimed to investigate the association of diet quality with risk and severity of COVID-19 and its intersection with socioeconomic deprivation.”

Researchers used data from 592,571 participants of the smartphone-based COVID Symptom Study. Diet quality “was assessed using a healthful plant-based diet score, which emphasizes healthy plant foods such as fruits or vegetables.” In addition, “Multivariable Cox models were fitted to calculate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for COVID-19 risk and severity defined using a validated symptom-based algorithm or hospitalization with oxygen support, respectively.”

Over 3,886,274 person-months of follow-up, 31,815 COVID-19 cases were documented. Compared with individuals in the lowest quartile of the diet score, “high diet quality was associated with lower risk of COVID-19 (HR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.88-0.94) and severe COVID-19 (HR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.47-0.74).”

Researchers state that “The joint association of low diet quality and increased deprivation on COVID-19 risk was higher than the sum of the risk associated with each factor alone (Pinteraction=0.005). The corresponding absolute excess rate for lowest vs highest quartile of diet score was 22.5 (95% CI, 18.8-26.3) and 40.8 (95% CI, 31.7-49.8; 10,000 person-months) among persons living in areas with low and high deprivation, respectively.”

The study concludes by stating that “dietary pattern characterized by healthy plant-based foods was associated with lower risk and severity of COVID-19. These association may be particularly evident among individuals living in areas with higher socioeconomic deprivation.”

Below is the study’s full abstract:

Abstract

Objective Poor metabolic health and certain lifestyle factors have been associated with risk and severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but data for diet are lacking. We aimed to investigate the association of diet quality with risk and severity of COVID-19 and its intersection with socioeconomic deprivation.

Design We used data from 592,571 participants of the smartphone-based COVID Symptom Study. Diet quality was assessed using a healthful plant-based diet score, which emphasizes healthy plant foods such as fruits or vegetables. Multivariable Cox models were fitted to calculate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for COVID-19 risk and severity defined using a validated symptom-based algorithm or hospitalization with oxygen support, respectively.

Results Over 3,886,274 person-months of follow-up, 31,815 COVID-19 cases were documented. Compared with individuals in the lowest quartile of the diet score, high diet quality was associated with lower risk of COVID-19 (HR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.88-0.94) and severe COVID-19 (HR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.47-0.74). The joint association of low diet quality and increased deprivation on COVID-19 risk was higher than the sum of the risk associated with each factor alone (Pinteraction=0.005). The corresponding absolute excess rate for lowest vs highest quartile of diet score was 22.5 (95% CI, 18.8-26.3) and 40.8 (95% CI, 31.7-49.8; 10,000 person-months) among persons living in areas with low and high deprivation, respectively.

Conclusions A dietary pattern characterized by healthy plant-based foods was associated with lower risk and severity of COVID-19. These association may be particularly evident among individuals living in areas with higher socioeconomic deprivation.

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