How eating your five-a-day may spare you from Covid: People who consume plenty of fruit and vegetables and cut out processed foods ‘are up to 40% less likely to fall severely ill with virus’
- King’s College London scientists asked 600,000 people about their diets
- They were then monitored for nine months in case they caught the virus
- Professor Tim Spector said eating greens could ‘improve your immune system’
Eating five-a-day day could cut your risk of falling severely ill with Covid, scientists claimed today.
King’s College London experts asked 600,000 people to log what they were eating before the pandemic began.
Volunteers were divided into five groups based on how healthy their diets were.
They were also tracked for nine months and asked to tell researchers if they caught the coronavirus and log how ill they became.
Results showed those who ate the most greens were 40 per cent less likely to be hospitalised and need oxygen if they were infected.
And they were 10 per cent less likely to catch the virus in the first place.
Eating a fruit and vegetable-laden diet could cut the risk of suffering severe Covid, scientists claimed in a paper released today (stock image)
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
The researchers defined the healthiest eaters as those who ate two pieces of fruit a day and three different vegetables.
They also had 200g of oily fish such as salmon and sardines every week and kept fatty and sugary processed foods to a minimum.
On the other hand, the unhealthiest eaters had fewer than two bits of fruit over the course of a week and went some days without eating any vegetables.
They also steered clear of oily fish, and consumed more fatty and sugary processed foods than recommended.
Professor Tim Spector, one of the researchers, said there was ‘no need to go vegan’ to reap the benefits of healthy eating.
But he said eating a more plant-laden diet could ‘improve your immune system’ and ‘potentially reduce your risk from Covid’.
Professor Spector said: ‘People who eat higher quality diets (with low levels of ultra-processed foods) have a healthier collection of microbes in their guts, which is linked to better health.’
Study co-author Dr Sarah Berry said: ‘For the first time we’ve been able to show that a healthier diet can cut the chances of developing Covid.’
The study was run through health-tech firm ZOE’s Covid Symptom Study app, which has been downloaded more than a million times.
The software — which allows people to log their symptoms and whether they had a positive test — is used to track the coronavirus outbreak in Britain.
Academics used data from more than 31,000 participants who were thought to have caught Covid across the UK and US.
Only a quarter actually tested positive for the virus — the rest were assumed to have been infected based on the symptoms they showed.
At the start of the pandemic there was a lack of tests available, leading to millions of cases being missed officially.
Participants were asked about what they ate in February last year, before the virus took hold.
They were followed until early December — through the first wave and the start of the second wave — and asked to log if they had the virus, or were hospitalised.
Data showed there were 72.2 cases of Covid for every 10,000 person-months among participants with the healthiest diets.
But for volunteers at the other end of the dietary spectrum, the rate stood at around 95.4.
The difference was even worse for cases of severe illness — defined as patients who were admitted to hospital and required oxygen.
After analysing the results for other potential factors that may have skewed the findings such as sex, ethnicity and underlying health conditions, they found those with the best diets were 40 per cent less likely to suffer severe disease and 10 per cent likely to catch the virus in the first place.
The study, which was published on medRxiv, also involved scientists from Harvard Medical School.
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