Vegans three-quarters less likely to get severe Covid-19 than meat eaters, finds study

A new study has revealed that people following a vegan or pescatarian diet are much less likely to be severely affected by Covid-19.

People on a vegan diet are 73% less likely to have moderate to severe Covid-19 effects than meat-eaters, according to a new study.

Pescetarianism — diets that include fish but omit meat — also reduces the risk of severe Covid-19 by 59% when compared to meat-eaters. The survey, published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health, explored three diets: plant-based that was higher in vegetables than meat, pescatarian that was high in vegetable and fish, and a low-carb, high-protein diet.

Veganism has seen a massive rise in adoption since the start of the pandemic. The study included health workers from six countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US — more than 2300 of whom had not contracted the coronavirus and 568 who had.

Those on a low-carb, high-protein diet were found to have been more severely affected by Covid-19 than others, with odds of contracting a more serious strain of the coronavirus four times higher than those on a vegan diet. Out of the 560 professionals who had suffered from the virus, 138 said they had experienced moderate to severe symptoms, with 430 reporting mild to very mild illness.

The authors said that plant-based or pescatarian “dietary patterns may be considered for protection against severe Covid-19”. However, they did note that there was no correlation between any type of diet and the risk of contracting Covid-19 as well as the length of the infection. They also explained that the study had a number of problems, a major one being that men outnumbered women, which means it may not apply to the latter.

“A high-quality diet is important for mounting an adequate immune response, which in turn can influence susceptibility to infection and its severity,” said Shane McAuliffe, deputy chair of NNEdPro Nutrition and the Covid-19 Taskforce.

He added: “This study highlights the need for better designed prospective studies on the association between diet, nutritional status and Covid-19 outcomes.”

Read our story exploring whether the Covid-19 vaccine is vegan-friendly.

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