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Inverse Association Between the Mediterranean Diet and COVID-19 Risk in Lebanon: A Case-Control Study

El Khoury et al., Frontiers in Nutrition, doi:10.3389/fnut.2021.707359
Jul 2021  
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Retrospective 399 people in Lebanon, showing a significant inverse association between the MedDiet score, corresponding to the level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet, and the risk of COVID-19.
El Khoury et al., 30 Jul 2021, retrospective, Lebanon, peer-reviewed, 2 authors.
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Inverse Association Between the Mediterranean Diet and COVID-19 Risk in Lebanon: A Case-Control Study
Christine N El Khoury, Sofi G Julien
Frontiers in Nutrition, doi:10.3389/fnut.2021.707359
Background: Since 2019, the world is confronting the COVID-19 public health crisis that deeply impacted all aspects of life, from the health sector to economy. Despite the advancement of research targeting pandemic containment measures, more strategies are still needed to alleviate the burden caused by this novel disease. In particular, optimal nutrition was proposed as a possible mitigating factor in the context of COVID-19. Indeed, the light is shed on balanced diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, which present the finest nutritional quality to support the immune system and other physiologic functions. In contrast, less varied diets that lack the needed nutrients and favor inflammation have been correlated with adverse health effects, including a hindered immune response, such as the western diet. Methods: This observational case control study aimed at exploring the possible associations between the different dietary patterns present among a sample of the Lebanese population and the COVID-19 occurrence and outcomes. An online survey collected information about the sociodemographic characteristics, health status, lifestyle, and dietary habits through the Mediterranean diet questionnaire and a semi-quantitative fod frequency questionnaire, and the COVID-19 infection and its burden. The sample consisted of 399 respondents divided into the case and control groups (37.6 and 62.4%, respectively) on the basis of the presence or absence of a COVID-19 infection history. Results: The participants in the case and control groups had average adherence to the Mediterranean diet and their dietary intake was closer to the western diet. However, the cases had a lower mean of the MedDiet score (p = 0.009). Food groups consumption analysis showed that this significant difference within the overall similar dietary patterns was due to a higher consumption of poultry and a trend toward decreased consumption of olive oil and increased read meat and alcohol intake among the cases. Additionally, gender influenced the levels of different foods' consumption. Nonetheless, the dietary intake did not impact the COVID-19 burden. Conclusion: It is recommended to adopt healthy food choices within the different dietary patterns for a better protection against COVID-19. These findings should be validated in larger-scale studies.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS CEK contributed to the conceptualization, investigation, and design of the study together with SGJ. CEK also organized the database, performed the statistical analysis, and wrote the original draft of the manuscript. SGJ supervised, reviewed, and validated the manuscript. CEK and SGJ approved the final version for submission. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version. SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at: Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
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