Background Many foods have an antioxidant activity, and nutrition may mitigate COVID-19. To test the potential role of vegetables in COVID-19 mortality in Europe, we performed an ecological study. Methods The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database was used to study the country consumption of Brassica vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, head cabbage (white, red and savoy cabbage), leafy brassica) and to compare them with spinach, cucumber, courgette, lettuce and tomato. The COVID-19 mortality per number of inhabitants was obtained from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. EuroStat data were used for potential confounders at the country level including Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (2019), population density (2018), percentage of people over 64 years (2019), unemployment rate (2019) and percentage of obesity (2014, to avoid missing values). Mortality counts were analyzed with quasi-Poisson regression models to model the death rate while accounting for over-dispersion. Results Of all the variables considered, including confounders, only head cabbage and cucumber reached statistical significance with the COVID-19 death rate per country. For each g/day increase in the average national consumption of some of the vegetables (head cabbage and cucumber), the mortality risk for COVID-19 decreased by a factor of 11, down to 13.6 %. Lettuce consumption increased COVID-19 mortality. The adjustment did not change the point estimate and the results were still significant. Discussion The negative ecological association between COVID-19 mortality and the consumption of cabbage and cucumber supports the a priori hypothesis previously reported. The hypothesis needs to be tested in individual studies performed in countries where the consumption of vegetables is common.
medrxiv Subject Collection: Infectious Diseases
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