Study Reveals Plant-based Diet Lowers Risk of Moderate to Severe COVID-19

Study Reveals Plant-based Diet Lowers Risk of Moderate to Severe COVID-19

Researchers from a number of prominent institutions sought to answer the question: what, if anything, does diet have to do with the fact that when it comes to COVID-19, some people face severe and even life-threatening illness while with others, it’s barely perceived as a common cold? What’s behind these observations from the standpoint of diet and health? While, of course, age and the presence of morbidities clearly surface in the mortality rate but what about the huge differences in cases? As it turns out, a study involving front-line COVID-19 care providers spanning six nations revealed some striking data points that should be further studied. Those healthcare professionals consuming a plant-based diet were 73% less likely to succumb to moderate to severe COVID-19 infection while individuals eating a plant and/or fish-based diet turned out to be 59% less likely to become severely ill with the novel coronavirus.

Published recently in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, these study team authors concluded, “Our results suggest that a healthy diet rich in nutrient-dense foods may be considered for protection against severe COVID-19.”

The Study

This observational, survey-based study covered 2,884 doctors and nurses working with COVID-19 patients in a  number of countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, where the investigators sought to uncover any seeming association with the subjects’ self-reported diets and levels of COVID-19 severity, duration of symptoms, etc. Of the whole study group, 2,316 of the cohort served as a study group in that they hadn’t experienced any SARS-CoV-2 symptoms nor had they tested in the affirmative for the pathogen.

In the meantime, the study sponsors used the other cohort involving 568 participants who struggled with symptoms associated with the coronavirus or produced a positive COVID-19 test. Of this total, 138 of them shared that they experienced moderate to severe conditions associated with the coronavirus while the remaining study cohort’s population reported only very mild to mild cases.

Risk Factors

Of course, the study sponsors factored in a number of elements from weight and body mass index to age, ethnicity, a profession in healthcare and commodities as well as lifestyle elements such as smoking and proclivity to exercise.

Diet Panel

The researchers introduced a diet panel, that is, a number of meal types totaling 11 selections that most closely followed their own particular lifestyle choices when it comes to meals during the past year. The research team was able to take the subject input and combine it into groupings that include plant-based or vegetarian diets, and the like.


Of interest, the study team found that for example, those who consumed low carb and high protein diets (think like Atkins or Zone Diet) experienced four times more the cases of moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Overall, those study participants that have plant-based diets or pescatarian diets are associated with less risk of moderate to severe COVID-19. While there isn’t enough data from this study to prove a correlation, the results are nonetheless intriguing and merit additional study.


The study was funded by Survey Healthcare Globus. Hyunju Kim and Casey M. Rebholz are funded by grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases as well as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute outside of the submitted work. Susan Cheng received funding from the National Institutes of Health.


Of course, there are a number of limitations with this study. An observational survey with a small size for such a class of study and dependence on subjects self-reporting, which is prone for sizeable margins of error in estimates on the true impact of diet on association with COVID-19 illness. Moreover, the authors reported that COVID-19 tests were not always available and in many cases with asymptomatic cases individuals can actually have the disease with no symptoms. This means that some of the subjects could have improperly shown up in the control groups, hence impacting study accuracy.

Moreover, while this study shows some association or correlation between the diets identified and the level of SARS-CoV-2 infection severity, it fails to show any causality. There isn’t enough strength in this study to make any conclusions.

Lead Research/investigator

  • Hyunju Kim, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • Casey M. Rebholz, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • Sheila Hedge, MPH, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • Christine LaFiura, Envision Health Partners
  • Madhunika Raghavan, Envision Health Partners
  • John F. Lloyd, Department of Cardiology, Smidt Heart Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Susan Cheng, Department of Cardiology, Smidt Heart Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Sara B. Seidelmann, Department of Medicine, Stamford Hospital, Stamford, Connecticut, USA
  • Department of Medicine, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York, USA, Corresponding Author

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  1. I take issue with this study, and here’s why. I am on a diet primarily consisting of meat and dairy because I have a type 4 sensitivity (immune response) to nickel. I’m not in bad shape because of the high protein diet. That’s why I’m on the high protein diet.

    Most vegetation is high in nickel

    It’s so dull I only weigh 116lb.

    It’s estimated 10% to 15% of the population has a type 4 sensitivity to nickel. Mostly women. Can’t wear surgical steel? You have a type 4 sensitivity to nickel.

    I have a gene for celiac, Celiac, Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disease, and Common Variable Immune Deficiency – most likely borne with it.

    It’s concerning when I see young people being encouraged to go vegan because there appears to be a connection to Veganism and mental stability.

  2. I doubt the credibility of this study and smells like a political agenda behind it, especially when reading the name Johns Hopkins (Event 201, SPARS Pandemic) that seems tightly bound to the WEF and the Gates Foundation.

    I was watching dozens of ex-vegan interviews on the YT-channel “sv3rige” (his diet is nuts) and the talks were always about loosing their health in the process. Some of them almost died from Veganism and especially a weak immune system against respiratory diseases was common all over. Make sense since there is almost no Vitamin B, D, K2 and zinc in a vegan diet and the seems that the usual supplements (almost all took supplements) were not or almost not working, probably due to a lack of animal fat to get absorbed. Injecting Vitamin B with a syringe is common for vegans. But severe weight loss was also very common and there is a cleansing effect. Most felt better during the first month(s), in some cases up to a year before it flipped. Three people who almost died from this diet:

  3. What is missing in this evaluation is how well formulated each of these diets were with regards to ONI’s ~ “Optimal Nutrient Intakes” (as defined by Marty Kendall at Optimising Nutrition).
    A well formulated diet which meets all nutrient targets will hit the highest immunity support target of 95% to 100% (as defined by Cronometer biometrics application).
    The blood plasma levels are the *proof* of how well formulated the intake of foods are. This is the key point.
    By omitting these pathology results the designers of the evaluation clearly show their own bias. The opportunity to measure the key factor (supply, transport, conversion of nutrients to provide resources to self defend, in addition to maintain all core level processes) has been lost.
    The evaluation has been a waste of time and effort.
    How do I know this?
    90% of my own whole food intake (calories) derive from animals. 10% from plant. All 39 specific essential nutrient targets are consistently met to ensure 95-100% immunity support. Consistency of supply is paramount to ensure a consistent robust immune response. All the body recognises is whether the foods supply the right nutrient at a molecular level in a non inflammatory manner. These will show up in the blood. Go measure the blood nutrient levels. Recategorise the diets by levels of processed foodstuffs. Then adjust the results to educate citizens upon the importance of attainment of nutrient targets. This is useful. This meets citizens expectations.
    On a personal note, if I followed these recommendations to omit animal foods and only consume plants then I would no longer be classed as “operationally cured” (5 years full remission of type two diabetes). My blood glucose levels would rise to re-create the four levels of prediabetes resulting in diabetes pathology again. What would be the point of this? My body would be insulin resistant. Foggy brain will return. I could not perform my physical outdoors job. I would feel disgusting, become obese, increase risk of death from stroke.

    Thank you TSN staff for sharing this evaluation. If any one is doing a trial assessing diet input and pathology results in blood then I would find such to be interesting, relevant to unmet needs of citizenship.

    1. Thanks for this. I was unaware that there are metrics for overall nutritional levels and tests to find them.

      I was going to comment that the cohorts in this study are so small as to be meaningless. 2884 participants but only 568 of them had the Covid, with 1 in 4 of those (138) becoming quite ill. The 2316 are not germane to this analysis. Those 138 were then categorized into 11 dietary groups, giving about a dozen people per group on average. And the study concludes that a vegan diet yields 73% lower risk of severe illness, with a veg and fish diet good for 59%. You don’t have the numbers to support this generalization; just 8 of only 12 vegans who were quite ill didn’t become severely ill can’t be extrapolated to the general population. One only has to look at the Covid situation in India, which has a huge number of vegetarians, to see this.

  4. Somewhat old news, because I learned this before covid came into our collective vocabulary. Dr. Robert Lustig has been leading this charge for years.

    Corporate Wealth or Public Health? (January 2020)—jGE

    Then came his latest book “Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine” (May 2021)

    Lustig puts FDA, Big Pharma, Big Ag and corrupted politicians at front and center of our decimated health due to Processed food Disease- same ones opposing ivermectin and other existing effective therapeutics.

    His mission, good health to you: