- Healthy eating may be linked to lower risk of COVID-19, according to a large new study.
- People with diets rich in veggies, nuts, and fish were less likely to be infected or get severely ill.
- Poorer communities are especially vulnerable to the risks of unhealthy diets, researchers said.
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A large new study suggests eating a high-quality diet rich in vegetables and oily fish may lower your risk of COVID-19, and lead to a less severe case if you were to be infected.
Comparing self-reported COVID-19 symptoms with surveys of participants’ eating habits, they found that people who ate the highest quality diets — with Mediterranean-style dishes, full of veggies, grains, nuts, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil — were 10% less likely to get COVID-19.
Those with the healthiest diets were also 40% less likely to become severely ill from the disease than people who ate less nutritious food, according to the June 25 pre-print, which has not been peer-reviewed.
That was true even after accounting for lifestyle factors like mask wearing, exercise, and socioeconomic status.
However, people living in poor communities were most vulnerable to the health risks of a low-quality diet, the data suggests.
Plant-based and Mediterranean were deemed ‘high quality’
The healthiest diets, per the study, focused on nutrient-rich whole foods, lots of plants, and few processed foods.
This includes plant-based and pescetarian diets as well as the Mediterranean diet, which research consistently shows to be among the healthiest styles of eating.
The researchers found that people who ate these diets tended to have a healthier gut microbiome, beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. These friendly microbes are associated with many health perks like lower inflammation and better blood sugar control.
Crucially, a healthy gut microbiome is also associated with a lower risk of illnesses including COVID-19.
In contrast, diets were ranked as lower quality if they included more animal products and processed foods, including like juice, potato chips, French fries, refined grains, and added sugars.
Wealth and exercise also play a major role in COVID risk, data suggests
In this study, participants with a higher-quality diet were more likely to exercise regularly and live in an area linked to more socioeconomic advantages.
However, wealthier people had a lower risk of contracting COVID-19, regardless of their diet.
When people from poorer communities also had a low-quality diet, they were 25% more likely to get COVID-19 than wealthy people with a similar eating habits.
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