New findings have confirmed the efficacy of dietary vitamin supplements – including vitamin C and vitamin D – in helping the immune system fight respiratory tract diseases such as COVID-19.
Dietary supplements containing micronutrients and vitamins C and D are a safe, low-cost, and effective way of helping the immune system fight off COVID-19 other acute respiratory tract diseases according to a new report. The researchers note this is sometimes in amounts exceeding recommended levels.
The research was carried out by Adrian Gombart of Oregon State University‘s (OSU) Linus Pauling Institute and collaborators at the University of Southampton (United Kingdom), the University of Otago (New Zealand) and University Medical Center (The Netherlands), and findings have been published in the journal Nutrients.
Boosting the immune system with vitamin supplements
Vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, docosahexaenoic acid, also known as DHA, are critical for immune function.
The researchers say that public health officials should issue a clear set of nutritional recommendations to complement messages about the role of hand washing and vaccinations in preventing the spread of infections.
Gombart, professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the OSU College of Science and a principal investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute, said: “Around the world, acute respiratory tract infections kill more than 2.5 million people every year.
“Meanwhile, there’s a wealth of data that shows the role that good nutrition plays in supporting the immune system. As a society we need to be doing a better job of getting that message across along with the other important, more common messages.
“The roles that vitamins C and D play in immunity are particularly well known. Vitamin C has roles in several aspects of immunity, including the growth and function of immune cells and antibody production. Vitamin D receptors on immune cells also affect their function. This means that vitamin D profoundly influences your response to infections.
“The problem is that people simply aren’t eating enough of these nutrients. This could destroy your resistance to infections. Consequently, we will see an increase in disease and all of the extra burdens that go along with that increase.”
Informing the public
The researchers are urging people to take a daily multivitamin as well as doses of 200 milligrams or more of vitamin C and 2,000 international units of vitamin D, rather than the 400 to 800 recommended, depending on age.
Gombart said: “A number of standard public health practices have been developed to help limit the spread and impact of respiratory viruses: regular hand washing, avoiding those showing symptoms of infection, and covering coughs, and for certain viruses like influenza, there are annual vaccination campaigns.”
He notes, that there is no doubt that vaccines, when available, can be effective, but they’re not foolproof, and emphasises that current public health practices – stressing social distancing, hygiene and vaccinations – are important and effective, but in need of complementary strategies.
A nutritional focus on the immune system could help minimise the impact of many kinds of infections.
“The present situation with COVID-19 and the number of people dying from other respiratory infections make it clear that we are not doing enough,” he said. “We strongly encourage public health officials to include nutritional strategies in their arsenal.”