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Can vegetarian diet prevent COVID-19 infections?

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-07-02 11:21
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Rumor: By taking a vegetarian diet one can prevent COVID-19 infections, citing an alleged report from the World Health Organization (WHO) as evidence.


Experts have not found scientific evidence that vegetarians are safe from COVID-19, nor has the WHO published any report to suggest that.

"The WHO has not made such a statement," Supriya Bezbaruah, the body's Indian representative, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

According to a piece of nutrition advice from the WHO for adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to have proper nutrition and hydration.

"People who eat a well-balanced diet tend to be healthier with stronger immune systems and lower risk of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases," it said, suggesting people should eat fresh and unprocessed foods every day, including meat, fish, eggs, milk and other foods from animal sources.

"Raw meat, milk, or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices," the organization said in another tip for reducing risk of transmission of emerging pathogens from animals to humans in live animal markets or animal product markets.

Gregory Gray, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Duke University, told U.S. magazine Popular Science that "even if we did go entirely vegan, we would still have contact with animals that may harbor pathogens that are foreign to the human immune system."

"I don't see it would stop the cross-species spread," he said.

R.V. Asokan, secretary general of the Indian Medical Association, told AFP that there is "absolutely no truth" in the claim.

"There is no medical evidence that non-vegetarian food is in any way related to COVID-19 death susceptibility," he said.

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