New Study Links Diet with Milder COVID-19 Symptoms

Is there a relationship between dietary choices and COVID-19 symptom severity? A new study takes a close look.


COVID-19 has deadly consequences for some people; for others, its effects are mild and fleeting. New research indicates that those who eat a plant- or fish-based diet may be at lower risk of developing severe symptoms. 

Sometimes, once-in-a-lifetime experiences are great; other times, not so much.

COVID-19 — a pandemic that has caused devastation around the globe — clearly belongs in the latter category. 

A new study sheds light on the role that diet plays in the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

Read on to learn more about the study’s scope, results and implications.  

Which medical journal published the study?

The study was published by BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health. This is an open-access nutrition journal that’s peer-reviewed. It’s focused on presenting evidence-based research that shines a light on the effect that nutrition and lifestyle have on overall health. 

What was the purpose of the study? 

The journal’s study was designed to take a look at “the association between self-reported diets and COVID-19 infection, severity and duration of symptoms.” 

Who participated in the study?

The study’s participants were healthcare providers; doctors and nurses who are exposed to the virus every day during their work with COVID-19 patients. Those participating in the study came from a range of countries: the United States, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. 

How big was the study, and what were the results?

It’s important to note that this was a small study consisting of just 2,884 participants. Of those who participated, 2,316 had not experienced any COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive for the virus. The folks in this batch were the study’s control group. 

That leaves 568 participants remaining. All of these people either tested positive for the virus or experienced symptoms. Of this group of people, 138 had moderate to severe COVID-19. All the others in this batch of 568 participants had only mild or very mild cases of the virus. 

When analyzing the results, the researchers took into consideration factors such as age, ethnicity, weight, body mass index and comorbidities. They also considered lifestyle behaviors, such as whether a person smoked or was physically active. 

The study required participants to self-report their dietary choices. They were asked to select the diet that most closely matched theirs over the past year from 11 options. The researchers then placed the choices into various dietary patterns, ranging from low-carb high-protein to plant-based to pescatarian (fish-based).

After adjusting for the previously mentioned factors, the researchers found that participants who reported following “plant-based diets” and “plant-based or pescatarian diets” had 73 percent and 59 percent lower odds, respectively, of developing moderate-to-severe COVID-19 symptoms when compared to those who didn’t follow these eating plans. 

Why this matters

COVID-19 is a new virus, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Though we have a vaccine, new variants crop up every day. The more we can learn about this disease, the better equipped we will be to face it over the long term. This study suggests that diet may be able to mitigate the severity of this virus, and that’s big news. Still, this is a small study — it will be interesting to see if the results are replicated with future research.

Next steps

If you’re curious about a plant-based diet and want to reap the health benefits of this eating plan, subscribe to Fresh N Lean. Our meal plans include standard vegan and low-carb vegan choices, and we provide convenient delivery to your door.

Fresh N Lean is the nation’s largest organic meal delivery service. Our tasty, chef-prepared cuisine is always fresh and never frozen, and we offer convenient meal plans like Protein+, Keto, Paleo, Standard Vegan and Mediterranean. Choose Fresh N Lean for affordable nutrition, delivered to your doorstep.