The Effects of a Pandemic on Our Health: Diet & Nutrition

Yesterday we looked at COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown’s direct effect on widespread weight gain. The sedentary lifestyle often seen as a result of lockdown and the addition of poor diet has led to an increase in weight gain. However, there are even more side effects because of or in addition to that weight gain that need to be considered.

One study describes how dietary changes, activity reduction, and the psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, and hostility, can combine for an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (Mattioli et al., 2020). This was shown to be the case following the Spagnola pandemic in 1918(Mattioli et al., 2020). The study concludes with a recommendation for patients to be checked for cardiovascular risk and be evaluated by a psychologist post-lockdown (Mattioli et al., 2020).

Another study identified other metabolic consequences including “increases in insulin resistance, total body fat, abdominal fat and inflammatory cytokines,” the combination of which are linked to multiple chronic diseases (Martinez-Ferran et al., 2020). This study particularly identifies the abruptness of the physical activity and dietary changes as a cause for these consequences (Martinez-Ferran et al., 2020).

The World Health Organization (WHO) actually announced modified dietary guidelines during the pandemic in an attempt to encourage a balanced diet, despite the modified routines (Jayawardena & Misra, 2020). These modifications added four additional servings of fruits and vegetables, for a total of nine daily, as well as a specific combination of whole grain cereals, specific meats, and beans (Jayawardena & Misra, 2020). A previous study by the same research team focused on necessary vitamins and minerals after having identified that malnutrition has played a role in the size of outbreaks in particular regions; “Indian states with high prevalence of underweight and anaemia have reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases” (Jayawardena & Misra, 2020). So, these guidelines are not just to maintain a balanced diet and attempt to limit weight gain, but could potentially have an impact on one’s risk for COVID itself.

Another suggestion for protecting oneself against contracting COVID-19 and maintaining a proper diet is incorporating a Mediterranean diet style. This high antioxidant, anti-inflammatory diet also potentially has antimicrobial and immunomodulatory characteristics, which has been linked to reduced cardiovascular risk and risk of other cardiometabolic disorders, including diabetes, and may reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 or at least helps reduce the severity of the virus (Angelidi et al., 2021).

Tomorrow we will examine the physical activity aspect of this scenario in more detail!


Angelidi, A.M., Kokkinos, A., Katechaki, E., Ros., E., & Mantzoros, C. (2021). Mediterranean diet as a nutritional

approach for COVID-19. Metabolism Journal, 114. 

Jayawardena, R. & Misra, A. (2020). Balanced diet is a major casualty in COVID-19. Diabetes Metabolic Syndrome,

          14(5), 1085-1086.

Martinez-Ferran, M., de la Guia-Gallpienso, F., Sanchis-Gomar, F. & Pareja-Galeano, H. (2020). Metabolic Impacts of

Confinement during the COVID-19 Pandemic Due to Modified Diet and Physical Activity Habits. Nutrients,     

          12(6), 1549.

Mattioli, A.V., Puviani, M.B., Nasi. M., & Farinetti, A. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic: the effects of quarantine on

cardiovascular risk. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 74, 852-855.

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