Lowering the odds of getting sick
As of March 2021, approximately 115 million cumulative cases of COVID-19 have been recorded globally. SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, has emerged into several variants, causing this seemingly never-ending pandemic to cripple nations despite the development of vaccines and observing health protocols.
Individuals with comorbidities or existing medical conditions like obesity, asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, mainly atherosclerosis and hypertension, are at a greater risk of getting severe COVID-19 symptoms when infected with the virus. These comorbidities are primarily related to malnutrition, which is not limited to being underweight. Malnutrition can also be found among overweight and obese individuals who are not getting adequate nutrients due to unhealthy food choices.
There are many speculations on the correlation of dietary habits influencing immunity against COVID-19. To put this theory to test, Hyunju Kim and colleagues conducted a web-based survey among 2,884 physicians and nurses from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the US between the period of July 17, 2020 and Sept. 25, 2020.
The participants’ responses regarding their one-year self-reported dietary patterns were divided into three categories: Plant-based diets, plant-based diets or pescatarian diet, and low carbohydrate and high protein diets.
Plant-based diet is often confused with vegan and vegetarian diets. A vegan diet excludes all food from animal origin, including honey. Vegetarian diets have various types. Some include the consumption of egg, dairy, and dairy products (lacto-ovo vegetarian); fish (pescatarian); or occasionally meat or fish (flexitarian). A plant-based diet may not totally exclude the consumption of animal sources. Rather it emphasizes on the consumption of food mostly from plant sources, mainly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Plant-based diets promote whole food and minimally processed food sources and ingredients.
Results of the research conducted by Hyunju Kim et al that was published in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, and Health Journal showed that there were 568 COVID-19 positive cases out of the 2,884 participants. Of 568 patients, 138 had moderate to severe symptoms while the remaining 430 patients had very mild to mild COVID-19.
In conclusion, participants who reportedly followed plant-based diets had 73 percent lower chances of moderate to severe COVID 19, while those that followed plant-based diets or pescatarian diets have 59 percent lower odds of getting moderate to severe COVID-19. Furthermore, the participants who had low carbohydrate, high protein diets had significantly greater chances of moderate to severe COVID-19. This led the team of researchers to conclude that plant-based diets or pescatarian diets are healthy dietary patterns, which may be considered for protection against severe COVID-19.
Plant-based diets are abundant in plant chemicals or phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins A, C, and E, folate, iron, potassium, and magnesium. In several studies, vitamins A, C, D, and E decreased the risk of respiratory infections, like colds and pneumonia, as well as shortened the duration of illnesses. These nutrients support the immune system by helping in the production of antibodies, proliferation of lymphocytes or white blood cells, and reduction of oxidative stress.
Participants who reportedly followed plant-based diets had 73 percent lower chances of moderate to severe COVID 19 severity, while those that followed plant-based diets or pescatarian diets have 59 percent lower odds of getting moderate to severe COVID-19 severity.
This pandemic is a long and arduous battle. Consider adapting a healthier lifestyle by consuming more plant food sources to balance your immune system and eating animal food sources in smaller portions. Make fresh produce readily available. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables. Incorporate these food items in one pot dishes for convenience. Make 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices. Perhaps go vegetarian at least once a day. This will be a good start for the plant-based dieter in the making.