When it comes to pandemic-protective dining, the better your food is for the planet, the better it is for your health. The first major report into the connection between diet and Covid-19 has found that people who enjoy plenty of plant-based grub are less likely to catch the virus, as well as less likely to become severely ill.
The ZOE Covid Study used an app to gather information from almost 600,000 respondents and based its conclusions on what they ate during February 2020. Almost a fifth of those taking part (31,815) went on to catch the coronavirus, based on reported symptoms and the results of PCR tests.
The researchers, from Harvard Medical School and King’s College London, rated diets according to an overall “diet quality score”. Diets with a high score were associated with nutrition-rich and environmentally friendly vegan and vegetarian food, while low-scoring diets were heavy on meat and processed foods and, unsurprisingly, not that healthy.
Those with plant-based or heavily plant-based diets were found to be 10 per cent less likely to develop Covid-19 than those with the lowest-quality diets. Those that did fall ill were 40 per cent less likely to become seriously ill. A study of doctors and nurses in six countries has already found that vegetarians are almost 75 per cent less likely than meat-eaters to come down with Covid-19.
The Covid risks associated with a diet high in meat and processed foods also depend on geographic location and relative wealth, the study found: for those in the poorest neighbourhoods, the poorest diets increased their risk of developing Covid-19 by 25 per cent more than it did for those with the same diet in richer areas.
Professor Tim Spector, ZOE lead scientist and professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, said: “You don’t have to go vegan, but getting more diverse plants on your plate is a great way to boost the health of your gut microbiome, improve your immunity and overall health, and potentially reduce your risk from Covid-19.”