WASHINGTON, D.C.—As the Omicron variant continues to cause a record number of infections, a new commentary in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition is calling for people to adopt a plant-based diet, which research shows can help reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 and mortality.
“It represents the most cost-effective approach and should be largely promoted and incorporated in everyday practice,” write Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee, and Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee, about a plant-based diet in the commentary. “This is a booster that is needed at this unprecedented time and that may actually work to mitigate COVID-19.”
The doctors cite several studies showing the benefits of a plant-based diet for COVID-19. One study showed that a healthy plant-based diet was associated with a 9% lower risk of COVID-19 infection and a 41% lower risk of severe COVID-19. Another study found that health care workers following a plant-based diet who had substantial exposure to COVID-19 patients had a 73% lower risk of moderate-to-severe COVID-19.
Okinawa, Japan, one of the “Blue Zones” where people live long and healthy lives, is another real-world example the authors provide to show the benefits of a plant-based diet for COVID-19. Okinawa, where the diet is predominantly plant-based and rich in sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, and soy products, has a much lower COVID-19 mortality rate than Tokyo, which is similar in size but has a lower population density.
Drs. Kahleova and Barnard also recently published the results of a clinical research study conducted by the Physicians Committee that found a plant-based diet helped hospital workers in Washington, D.C., improve their health and quality of life during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a commentary published in the American Journal of Medicine, Dr. Barnard wrote that vaccines should be paired with plant-based diets to fight COVID-19.
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.