WASHINGTON—A plant-based diet helped hospital workers improve their heart health and quality of life at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
“Hospital employees continue to risk illness and death from COVID-19 every day,” says Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “But our research shows a plant-based diet can help hospital workers lower high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels—which are linked to more severe illness and death from COVID-19—and help ensure they remain healthy to better serve patients.”
Researchers conducted the study at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., with hospital employees who had a body mass index >25, which falls within the overweight range, putting them at increased risk for diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease.
During the 12-week control phase of the study, participants remained on their usual diets. During the 12-week intervention phase, participants followed a low-fat plant-based diet, along with weekly classes with detailed instruction and cooking demonstrations. Researchers measured hospital workers’ body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar at the beginning and end of each phase of the study. Participants also took a survey on quality of life.
During the plant-based phase of the study, there were greater reductions in body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Despite workplace stresses and the greatly added stress of the pandemic, general quality of life and the overall satisfaction with the diet increased during the plant-based phase.
Earlier this year, a study of health care workers in six countries revealed that those following largely plant-based diets had 73% lower odds of developing moderate-to-severe COVID-19, compared with those following other diets.
Jeanne Stuart McVey
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.