Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System Is an Important Factor to Protect against Viral Infections

Philip C. Calder, Anitra C. Carr, Adrian F. Gombart, Manfred Eggersdorfer*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    162 Citations (Scopus)
    66 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Public health practices including handwashing and vaccinations help reduce the spread and impact of infections. Nevertheless, the global burden of infection is high, and additional measures are necessary. Acute respiratory tract infections, for example, were responsible for approximately 2.38 million deaths worldwide in 2016. The role nutrition plays in supporting the immune system is well-established. A wealth of mechanistic and clinical data show that vitamins, including vitamins A, B-6, B-12, C, D, E, and folate; trace elements, including zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, and copper; and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid play important and complementary roles in supporting the immune system. Inadequate intake and status of these nutrients are widespread, leading to a decrease in resistance to infections and as a consequence an increase in disease burden. Against this background the following conclusions are made: (1) supplementation with the above micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids is a safe, effective, and low-cost strategy to help support optimal immune function; (2) supplementation above the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), but within recommended upper safety limits, for specific nutrients such as vitamins C and D is warranted; and (3) public health officials are encouraged to include nutritional strategies in their recommendations to improve public health.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1181
    Number of pages10
    JournalNutrients
    Volume12
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Apr-2020

    Keywords

    • immune system
    • viral infection
    • influenza
    • COVID-19
    • micronutrients
    • vitamins
    • omega-3 fatty acids
    • minerals
    • vitamin C
    • vitamin D
    • RESPIRATORY-TRACT INFECTIONS
    • VITAMIN-C SUPPLEMENTATION
    • ZINC SUPPLEMENTATION
    • UNITED-STATES
    • SELENIUM
    • PREVENTION
    • INFLAMMATION
    • DEFICIENCY
    • EXPRESSION
    • RESOLUTION

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