People who enjoy a plant-based diet like vegetarians and vegans or take fish as their only source of meat are much less likely to become infected with Covid-19, a new study has found.

According to the findings published in Nutrition, prevention and health of BMJ, which looked at data from health care workers in six countries, including the UK, people on a plant-based diet were 73 per cent less likely to be struck by the coronavirus, while self-proclaimed fishermen were 59 per cent less likely to get it. more likely to get sick than those who eat red and white meat.

Low carb and high protein diets appear to be associated with an increased chance of contracting moderate to severe disease, although the findings were not statistically significant.

The study consisted of a web-based questionnaire that sought to explore the link between respiratory illness and diet, surveying 2,300 who did not have the virus and 568 who did.

Among those infected with Covid-19, 138 reported moderate to severe symptoms while 430 said they had suffered only from a mild or very mild form of the disease.

Participants were asked to consider the diet they had in the year before Covid and were given 11 choices: complete foods, plant-based diet; these diets; vegetarian diet; Mediterranean diet; peskatarian diet; Paleolithic diet; low fat diet; low carbohydrate diet; protein-rich diet; others; none of the above.

Among the 568 respondents who reported having previously been ill, only 41 said they had followed a plant-based diet, while only 46 were ill after following a plant-based or peskatarian diet.

The authors, led by a team in the US, wrote: “In six countries, plant-based diets or pescatarian diets were associated with lower chances of moderate to severe Covid-19.

“These dietary models can be considered for protection against severe Covid-19.

“Plant-based diets or pescatarian diets are healthy dietary models, which can be considered for protection against severe Covid-19.”

The ‘plant-based diet’ group combined people who said they had eaten a plant-based diet with vegetarians and those who said they followed a ‘complete food’ diet.

Gunter Kuhnle, professor of nutrition at the University of Reading, said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been much speculation about the impact of diet on disease risk.

“This study tries to answer this question, but there are a number of limitations that need to be considered: The study relied entirely on self-reporting, and many data have shown that self-reported dietary intake is unsafe.

“In this study, participants were asked about their diet after being diagnosed with Covid-19, and this could lead to further misreporting, especially among participants who are interested in a possible link between diet and disease. .

“Finally, the study was conducted in different countries with very different diets – a plant-based diet in Spain or Italy is likely to be different from a predominantly plant-based diet in Germany or the UK.”

Professor Francois Balloux of the UCL Genetic Institute said: “The study reports that doctors who eat plant-based or pescatarian diets tend to be at a much lower risk of developing severe Covid-19 symptoms after infection.

“The sample size is good and the tests appear to be performed competently. Further confirmation may be required to confirm a direct, causal link between diet and the severity of Covid-19 disease.

“Indeed, uncalculated diet-related lifestyle variables can affect the overall health of study subjects, and thus how well they coped with Covid-19 infection.”

A vegan diet contains only plants such as vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fruits and plant-based foods, according to the Eatwell guide. Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.

Additional reporting by agencies

This article was last modified on July 5, 2021. He previously described the ‘plant-based diet’ group as vegan, which was not the case. For the purposes of the study, the ‘plant-based diet’ group combined people who ate a plant-based diet with vegetarians and those who said they ate ‘whole foods’, which included little meat.