Western Dietary Pattern Antioxidant Intakes and Oxidative Stress: Importance During the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Pandemic.

Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.). 2021;12(3):670-681

Plain language summary

The Atlantic diet (AD), Mediterranean diet (MD) and diets which follow the American dietary guidelines (AmD) all supply enough nutrients for the body to stay healthy. However, during periods of viral pandemics, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, these diets may be inadequate for optimal resistance to infection. Furthermore, nutrient requirements may alter with age, stress, and health. This review paper aimed to discuss the three different diets and their suitability depending on age and physical and mental state. Supplementation during a pandemic was also discussed. When the body contracts viruses such as Covid-19, reactive oxygen species can accumulate resulting in oxidative stress which can damage the cells. Nutrients in the diet, which act as antioxidants may be of benefit, in this instance, however traditional balanced diets such as the AD, MD and AmD may be inadequate. In tandem with a balanced diet, supplementation may improve health. Zinc, vitamin A, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin C, and iron have been shown in research to improve the body’s response to viruses. It was concluded that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused severe infections, which can result in oxidative stress, increasing vulnerability to viral infections. Supplementing certain nutrients may be of benefit especially in vulnerable individuals. This study could be used by healthcare professionals to understand that a balanced diet is essential during viral pandemics, and it may be necessary to consider supplementation for high-risk individuals.


The importance of balanced dietary habits, which include appropriate amounts of antioxidants to maintain the immune system, has become increasingly relevant during the current SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic, because viral infections are characterized by high oxidative stress. Furthermore, the measures taken by governments to control the pandemic have led to increased anxiety, stress, and depression, which affect physical and mental health, all of which are influenced by nutritional status, diet, and lifestyle. The Mediterranean diet (MD), Atlantic diet (AD), and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans all provide the essential vitamins, minerals, and phenolic compounds needed to activate enzymatic and nonenzymatic antioxidant responses. However, viral pandemics such as the current COVID-19 crisis entail high oxidative damage caused by both the infection and the resultant social stresses within populations, which increases the probability and severity of infection. Balanced dietary patterns such as the MD and the AD are characterized by the consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, and whole grains with low intakes of processed foods and red meat. For a healthy lifestyle in young adults, the MD in particular provides the required amount of antioxidants per day for vitamins D (0.3-3.8 μg), E (17.0 mg), C (137.2-269.8 mg), A (1273.3 μg), B-12 (1.5-2.0 μg), and folate (455.1-561.3 μg), the minerals Se (120.0 μg), Zn (11.0 mg), Fe (15.0-18.8 mg), and Mn (5.2-12.5 mg), and polyphenols (1171.00 mg) needed to maintain an active immune response. However, all of these diets are deficient in the recommended amount of vitamin D (20 μg/d). Therefore, vulnerable populations such as elders and obese individuals could benefit from antioxidant supplementation to improve their antioxidant response. Although evidence remains scarce, there is some indication that a healthy diet, along with supplemental antioxidant intake, is beneficial to COVID-19 patients.

Lifestyle medicine

Patient Centred Factors : Triggers/Covid-19
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients ; Microorganisms
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable


Nutrition Evidence keywords : Supplementation