Can an anti-inflammatory diet be effective in preventing or treating viral respiratory diseases? A systematic narrative review

Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2021 Jun:43:9-15. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2021.04.009. Epub 2021 Apr 24.


Respiratory Viruses infections (RVI) such as rhinovirus, coronavirus, influenza virus, and adenovirus affect the respiratory and the immune systems. The role of nutrition in the respiratory and immune systems has been studied in some studies, and its importance is undeniable. In addition, one of the key findings in this disease is high inflammation that affects almost all patients. This systematic narrative review aims to answer the question, "Can an anti-inflammatory diet be effective in preventing or treating viral respiratory diseases?" A systematic review search was used for the articles extraction. All studies published in English from 1999 to 2020 investigating dietary inflammatory conditions and RVI were included. Food items with anti-inflammatory properties were selected based on the definition of the dietary inflammatory index (DII). We used Google Scholar, Pub Med, Scopus, Web of Science, Springer, Science Direct, Directory of Open Access Journals, Elsevier, Taylor and Francis, ProQuest, EBSCO, MEDLINE, and SciELO databases for extracting articles. Keywords were restricted by DII. Based on DII, food items/nutrients are involved in inflammation, some of which have anti-inflammatory and some inflammatory properties. Some foods/nutrients, in addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, have antioxidant, antiviral, and immune-enhancing properties. Considering the immune system's involvement, increased inflammation, and involvement of the pulmonary system in RVI and the remarkable role of the anti-inflammatory foods for counteracting them, it is recommended to use a predominantly anti-inflammatory diet along with prevention/control and treatment protocols. An anti-inflammatory diet (based on DII) includes turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions, saffron, dietary vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 are recommended to reduce infection symptoms and duration.

Keywords: Antioxidant; Coronavirus; Garlic; Ginger; Respiratory viruses; Turmeric; Zinc.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Coronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Crocus
  • Diet / classification
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / diet therapy
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Micronutrients / pharmacology
  • Micronutrients / therapeutic use*
  • Nutrients / pharmacology
  • Nutrients / therapeutic use
  • Nutritional Status
  • Orthomyxoviridae
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diet therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Rhinovirus
  • Virus Diseases / complications
  • Virus Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Virus Diseases / prevention & control
  • Virus Diseases / virology
  • Viruses*
  • Vitamins / pharmacology
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use
  • Zinc / pharmacology
  • Zinc / therapeutic use
  • Zingiberaceae


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Micronutrients
  • Plant Extracts
  • Vitamins
  • Zinc