Immune support by micronutrients is historically based on vitamin C deficiency and supplementation in scurvy in early times. It has since been established that the complex, integrated immune system needs multiple specific micronutrients, including vitamins A, D, C, E, B6, and B12, folate, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium, which play vital, often synergistic roles at every stage of the immune response. Adequate amounts are essential to ensure the proper function of physical barriers and immune cells; however, daily micronutrient intakes necessary to support immune function may be higher than current recommended dietary allowances. Certain populations have inadequate dietary micronutrient intakes, and situations with increased requirements (e.g., infection, stress, and pollution) further decrease stores within the body. Several micronutrients may be deficient, and even marginal deficiency may impair immunity. Although contradictory data exist, available evidence indicates that supplementation with multiple micronutrients with immune-supporting roles may modulate immune function and reduce the risk of infection. Micronutrients with the strongest evidence for immune support are vitamins C and D and zinc. Better design of human clinical studies addressing dosage and combinations of micronutrients in different populations are required to substantiate the benefits of micronutrient supplementation against infection.
Keywords: immune system; infection; micronutrients; minerals; vitamins.