Q. I know a healthy diet can help prevent some chronic diseases. Can good nutrition help prevent COVID-19?


A. Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, Stanley N. Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at the Friedman School and executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, answers: “As of this writing, COVID-19 has already killed one in 500 Americans. The best way to protect yourself and everyone you come in contact with from this serious, life-threatening disease is to get vaccinated. (Vaccinated people can still have breakthrough infections, but data show unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die of the disease.) Wearing a mask over your mouth and nose (to cut down on the spread of aerosols from your mouth to the air and the amount of other people’s potentially virus-laden respiratory droplets that make it into your lungs) is also critical, as is avoiding crowds, especially indoors. Advice is evolving as we learn more about this still-relatively-new pathogen and variants that emerge. It’s important to pay attention to federal and local guidance as it comes out.

“That said, nutrition does have a role to play in this pandemic. We know that people with conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes have worse outcomes when they contract COVID-19. Diet is strongly tied to prevention and treatment of each of these conditions. A recent study suggests consuming a healthy plant-based diet is associated with somewhat lower risk of contracting COVID-19 than consuming an unhealthy diet, and a significantly lower risk of having a severe case.

“A healthy overall dietary pattern supports good cardiometabolic health and helps support a strong immune system. Make good choices, stay safe, and be well.”


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