Is Covid Less Severe For Vegans?

This article should not be taken as medical advice. It is the opinion of the author based on current freely available evidence. If you have health concerns, please consult your medical professional.

A number of recent studies have shown that diet plays a key role in Covid-19 severity. It’s still a bit of a mystery why some people seem to come down with the virus much worse than others but there does appear to be a dietary link. So is Covid less severe for vegans? It’s the inevitable question.

Is Covid Less Severe For Vegans?

 Yes. Studies clearly show a vegan diet high in fresh vegetables, fruit and other whole foods plays a significant part in keeping the immune system strong which helps to fight off all infection, including Covid-19. 

Close up of covid-19 infected cell.

But don’t take my word for it …

Christmas 2019 … most of us were blissfully unaware of the impending Covid chaos about to be unleashed across the globe. Few of us realised our lives and our outlook on life was about to be turned upside down in a most profound way.

But experts in infectious disease had been warning for decades of exactly this situation. A highly contagious respiratory disease like SARS-CoV-2 which makes the jump from animal to human with truly devastating consequences.

Countries in the East like China and Singapore were probably more prepared than us in the West, having already experienced similar, less severe outbreaks of SARS as early as 2002. Having said that, this preparedness was not able to contain the spread of Covid-19.

As I write this, China is completely locking down major cities again, more than 2 years after the first cases of this destructive virus were identified.

In the West, the mantra now seems to be … “learning to live with Covid” and while the initial response in the UK was utterly irresponsible and even unlawful in some cases, many are now coming round to the idea that we will just have to accept the presence of Covid-19 in our lives.

One of the ways we can live with this disease is to ensure our immune systems are in tip top shape. The food we eat plays a big role in this regard…

Plant Based Diets = Better Covid-19 Outcomes

Deluxe plant based burger.

Seems like a strong statement to make and will probably have the carnist crowd up in arms (what doesn’t?) but the latest research into diet and Covid shows a highly significant link.

In early June 2021 the British Medical Journal published a revealing piece of research which clearly showed a plant based diet led to a less severe bout of Covid-19 [1].

Those studied who stated they followed a plant based diet had a much lower chance of experiencing severe symptoms … and the figure is a huge 73%.

Difficult to argue with that.

A later study published in early September 2021, also in the BMJ, concluded that a diet centred around healthy plant-based foods was significantly linked with less severe Covid-19 symptoms and interestingly, a lower risk of contracting the disease in the first place [2].

Furthermore, this association was shown to be more acute when cross referenced against socio-economic data. Those from poor backgrounds were more likely to benefit from following a PBD when Covid infection and severity were looked at.

This later study had a much wider scope too, taking in data from nearly 600,000 people.

It was shown very early in the pandemic that obesity is a major risk factor in contracting severe Covid-19 [3]. The number of patients needing mechanical intervention (ventilators to you and I) increases directly in line with BMI data.

Since this study was first published its findings have been mirrored across the globe.

We can conclude from all of this peer reviewed data that a healthy, whole foods plant based diet is very likely to result in a less severe Covid-19 outcome.

And very simply, because vegans consume a plant based diet exclusively there’s a good chance Covid is much less severe for this group.

Vegans Tend To Have Stronger Immune Systems

Close up of a lemon water with sprig of herb in the glass.

More bold claims for the maniac ‘bash-a-vegan’ brigade to get their teeth into. I just keep coming out with them today.

But you can’t argue with mathematics. It’s just simple counting folks.

I know, fundamentally veganism is not about health but purely from the perspective of diet, vegans will be more likely to eat healthy, plant based whole foods.

A diet high in fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, pulses etc and low in animal protein is conclusively proven to optimise the immune system.

I don’t need to cite sources on this one, the evidence is just overwhelming.

But here’s just one of many hundreds of studies [4] from which this sentence in the conclusion says it all for me …

“Unlike current drugs, which are expensive and can result in a variety of side effects, plant-based functional foods result in fewer side effects, are stable, and tend to exhibit a lasting efficacy.”

(Jiang Linlin, Zhang Guoqing, Li Ye, Shi Guirong, Li Minhui 2021 p.14)

It follows then, vegans are more likely to have a stronger immune system which helps to fight off all infection, including Covid-19.

This would explain the numbers observed so far in this pandemic.

Vegans Are Less Likely To Have Severe Covid

Doctors looking down on the patient from above.

I’m conscious of the fact that many will react negatively to this statement but I hope the evidence laid out above clearly demonstrates it is indeed the case.

Maybe it’s the word vegan which is the problem. There is a lot of stigma around the word, that’s for sure. Many have an instinctive negative reaction when they hear it.

Technically it’s not about being vegan. But it is about being plant based.

The usual caveats apply. Some vegans have a less than optimum immune system. Some carnists also have a weak immunity. None of us are the same.

But generally, if you’re following a whole foods plant based diet and supplementing if you need to (Omega 3 and vitamin B12) you’re going to be on one of the healthiest diets around.

As always, I’d love to know what you think! Please do leave your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading!

Rohan.


[1] – Kim H, Rebholz CM, Hegde S, et al. Plant-based diets, pescatarian diets and COVID-19 severity: a population-based case–control study in six countries. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health 2021;4:doi: 10.1136/bmjnph-2021-000272 https://nutrition.bmj.com/content/4/1/257

[2] – Merino J, Joshi AD, Nguyen LH, et al. Diet quality and risk and severity of COVID-19: a prospective cohort study. Gut 2021;70:2096-2104. https://gut.bmj.com/content/70/11/2096

[3] – Simonnet A, Chetboun M, Poissy J, et al. High Prevalence of Obesity in Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) Requiring Invasive Mechanical Ventilation. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.). 2020 Jul;28(7):1195-1199. DOI: 10.1002/oby.22831. PMID: 32271993; PMCID: PMC7262326. http://europepmc.org/article/MED/32271993

[4] – Jiang Linlin, Zhang Guoqing, Li Ye, Shi Guirong, Li Minhui. Potential Application of Plant-Based Functional Foods in the Development of Immune Boosters. Frontiers in Pharmacology. April 20, 2021. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fphar.2021.637782

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