Nutrition and HIV

STEP Perspect. Spring 1995;7(1):2-5.


AIDS: Nutritional status directly affects immune competence; therefore, dietary supplements can be beneficial. Vitamin A, a fat-soluble nutrient obtained exogenously from animal protein or synthesized endogenously from carotenoids, is important in vision, epithelial tissue maintenance, reproduction, and growth. It is also an antioxidant, and can interfere with HIV-related oxidative destruction. Vitamin C, a water-soluble antioxidant important in hydroxylation reactions and required by erythrocytes for retrieving stored iron, can suppress HIV in vitro. However, this requires long-term administration, and its effect ceases upon termination of treatment. Vitamin E, fat-soluble tocopherols, can be found in plants, vegetable oils, milk, eggs, fish, meats, and cereals. A potent antioxidant because of its electron-donating ability, vitamin E reduces HIV replication. Deficiency reduces inhibition of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) and protein kinase C, therefore limiting immunocompetence. Additionally, damaging side effects of AZT, normally reversed or minimized by vitamin E, may induce low leukocyte counts and anemia. Vitamin E acts synergistically with selenium, another antioxidant, to block the rate of lipid peroxidation. Its administration may reduce diarrhea, cramping, and weight loss, and may improve epithelial conditions and reduce the frequency of illness. N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a sulfur-containing amino acid, inhibits HIV replication by raising serum glutathione levels through inhibition of TNF-a. Finally, HIV-infected patients should consider gluten-free diets during times of acute gastric distress.

Publication types

  • Newspaper Article

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / therapeutic use
  • Carotenoids / therapeutic use
  • HIV Infections / diet therapy*
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Selenium / therapeutic use
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use
  • beta Carotene


  • Vitamins
  • beta Carotene
  • Carotenoids
  • Selenium
  • Acetylcysteine