Vegans are less likely to get COVID, study finds

Overhead view of senior vegan Asian woman carrying out a Covid-19 rapid lateral flow test at home. She is holding a positive Coronavirus rapid self test device, feeling worried
People who eat a vegan diet are less likely to get Covid than those who eat meat, a study has found. (Getty Images)

A vegan diet can have many positive impacts on our health, and now new research has found that those who follow a plant-based diet are less likely to catch COVID-19.

Researchers found that people who stick to a mostly plant-based diet have a 39% lower risk of getting the disease than those who eat dairy products or meat.

To come to these findings, published in the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health, a Brazilian research team evaluated the potential impact of dietary patterns on the prevalence of COVID among 702 adult volunteers.

The group was divided into omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans. The research team said there were no significant differences in sex, age, or vaccination uptake between the omnivores and plant-based groups.

It found that omnivores had a higher rate of medical conditions overall, reported less physical activity, and were more likely to be overweight or obese.

Young woman returned with purchases from grocery store takes fresh organic vegetables out of mesh bag putting on kitchen table at home close view
Plant-based diets provide more nutrients that boost the immune system. (Getty Images)

Of the study cohort, 330 participants (47%) said that they'd had COVID, however, there was a 'significantly higher' incidence among omnivores than those who ate plant-based diets.

The omnivores had a higher reported incidence of COVID than the plant-based dietary groups, and they were more likely to have had moderate to severe infection.

​​The researchers say it may be that predominantly plant-based diets provide more nutrients that boost the immune system and help to fight viral infections.

"Plant-based dietary patterns are rich in antioxidants, phytosterols and polyphenols, which positively affect several cell types implicated in the immune function and exhibit direct antiviral properties," study author Dr Júlio César Acosta-Navarro, says.

"In light of these findings and the findings of other studies, and because of the importance of identifying factors that can influence the incidence of COVID-19, we recommend the practice of following plant-based diets or vegetarian dietary patterns."

Current estimates suggest that between 2% to 3% of Brits, or up to 2 million people in the UK, follow a vegan diet.

Researchers added that the link between veganism and lack of COVID cases is an area that warranted further investigation.

Vegan diets: Read more