Vegan and pescatarian diets may drastically reduce severe COVID-19 risk

A study that involved participants across half a dozen countries has linked eating a plant-based or pescatarian diet with significantly lower odds of developing moderate or severe COVID-19 infections. The research involved an online survey given to healthcare workers from the US, UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy who had 'substantial exposure' to patients with COVID-19.

A plant-based diet includes vegetarians and vegans, whereas a pescatarian diet involves eating what is essentially a vegetarian diet, but with the addition of seafood like fish. The new study evaluated whether these diets may have an influence on COVID-19 severity, ultimately finding — after accounting for other potential factors — that these diets may offer a degree of protection against moderate and severe illnesses.

The surveys were given between July and September 2020, with the healthcare workers providing information on their diets, COVID-19 experiences, and demographic data. The researchers then used multivariable logistic regression models to assess the potential link between diet types and COVID-19 outcomes, including duration and severity.

With 2,316 control subjects and 568 reported cases of COVID-19, the study found that 138 of those people experienced moderate or severe COVID-19, while the remaining 430 people had mild or very mild symptoms. After adjusting for potentially influencing factors, the researchers found that plant-based diets and pescatarians were associated with lower severity odds.

Participants who reported eating a plant-based diet had a 73-percent lower chance of developing moderate or severe COVID-19 symptoms, while those who adhered to a pescatarian diet had 59-percent lower odds. These figures were compared to people who reported eating something other than a plant-based or pescatarian diet. On the flip side, participants who ate a high-protein, low-carb diet had higher odds of experiencing moderate and severe COVID-19 symptoms.