Plant-Based, Pescatarian Diets May Lessen COVID-19 Disease Severity

Killian Meara

Killian Meara, assistant editor for ContagionLive, joined the MJH Life Sciences team in November 2020. He graduated from William Paterson University with a degree in liberal studies, and concentrations in history and psychology. He enjoys film, reading, and pretending he is a good cook. Follow him on Twitter @krmeara or email him at [email protected]

Diets consisting mainly of pants and fish were associated with lower chances of moderate to severe infections.

A recent observational study conducted by investigators from the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with Survey Healthcare Globus, has discovered that a plant-based or pescatarian diet may help reduce an individual’s odds of developing a moderate to severe case of COVID-19.

Results from the study were published in the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health.

"The trends in this study are limited by study size and design so caution is needed in the interpretation of the findings," Shane McAuliffe, deputy chair of the NNEdPro Nutrition and COVID-19 taskforce said. "However, a high quality diet is important for mounting an adequate immune response, which in turn can influence susceptibility to infection and its severity."

For the study, the team of investigators analyzed survey responses from 2,884 clinicians who were at a high-risk for contracting COVID-19 due to their occupations. The participants were all part of a global network of healthcare professionals registered with the Survey Healthcare Globus network.

The survey was designed to find out information about the respondents’ dietary patterns and was a 47-item food frequency questionnaire and the severity of any COVID-19 infections that they may have had.

Of the respondents 568 said that they had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or no symptoms but tested positive for an infection with the disease. The rest of the participants had no symptoms and no positive test.

Findings from the study showed that the respondents who had diets consisting mainly of plants, or pants and fish had a 73% and 59% lower chance of a moderate to severe infection with COVID-19.

Additionally, the participants who ate a low carb-high protein diet had nearly 4 times the odds for a moderate to severe infection with COVID-19.

"Our results suggest that a healthy diet rich in nutrient dense foods may be considered for protection against severe COVID-19," the authors wrote. "This study highlights the need for better designed prospective studies on the association between diet, nutritional status and COVID-19 outcomes."