Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) conducted a study recently and it got published in Gut, people whose diets were based on healthy plant-based foods had lower risks on both counts.
The advantageous effects of diet on coronavirus risk looked especially relevant in individuals living in areas of high socioeconomic deficiency. Although metabolic conditions
Although metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes have been associated to an increased risk of COVID-19, as well as an increased risk of experiencing serious symptoms once infected, the impact of diet on these dangers is yet not known.
A lead author Jordi Merino, PhD, a research associate at the Diabetes Unit and Center for Genomic Medicine at MGH and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School said,”Previous reports suggest that poor nutrition is a common feature among groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but data on the association between diet and COVID-19 risk and severity are lacking.”
For the study, Merino and his colleagues studied data of 592,571 participants of the smartphone-based COVID-19 Symptom Study.
From March 24, 2020, the participants living in the UK and the US were recruited and followed until December 2, 2020. At the beginning of the study, the participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that questioned their dietary habits before the pandemic.
Diet quality was evaluated using a healthful Plant-Based Diet Score that highlights healthy plant foods such as fruits and vegetables.
About 31,831 participants developed COVID-19 during the follow-up. Compared with individuals in the lowest quartile of the diet score, those in the highest quartile had a 9 per cent lower risk of developing COVID-19 and a 41% lower risk of developing severe COVID-19.
“These findings were consistent across a range of sensitivity analyses accounting for other healthy behaviours, social determinants of health and community virus transmission rates,” said Merino.
“Although we cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in crowded indoor settings, our study suggests that individuals can also potentially reduce their risk of getting COVID-19 or having poor outcomes by paying attention to their diet,” said co-senior author Andrew Chan, MD, MPH, a gastroenterologist and chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at MGH.
The researchers also found a synergistic relationship between poor diet and increased socioeconomic deprivation with COVID-19 risk that was higher than the sum of the risk associated with each factor alone.
“Our models estimate that nearly a third of COVID-19 cases would have been prevented if one of two exposures–diet or deprivation–were not present,” said Merino.
The results also suggest that public health strategies that improve access to healthy foods and address social determinants of health may help to reduce the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our findings are a call to governments and stakeholders to prioritize healthy diets and wellbeing with impactful policies, otherwise we risk losing decades of economic progress and a substantial increase in health disparities,” said Merino.