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Review
. 2020 Apr 23;12(4):1181.
doi: 10.3390/nu12041181.

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

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Free PMC article
Review

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

Philip C Calder et al. Nutrients. .
Free PMC article

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, B6, B12, 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.

Keywords: COVID-19; immune system; influenza; micronutrients; minerals; omega-3 fatty acids; viral infection; vitamin C; vitamin D; vitamins.

Conflict of interest statement

P.C.C. has research funding from BASF AS and Bayer Consumer Care; acts as an advisor/consultant to BASF AS, DSM, Cargill, Smartfish, Nutrileads, Bayer Consumer Care, and Pfizer (now GSK) Consumer Healthcare; has received reimbursement for travel and/or speaking from Danone, Fresenius Kabi, Baxter, Pfizer (now GSK) Consumer Healthcare, Abbott, Smartfish, Biogredia and the California Walnut Commission; and is President and member of the Board of Directors of the European Branch of the International Life Sciences Institute. A.C.C. has received research funding from Bayer Consumer Care and travel reimbursement from DSM. M.E. acts as an advisor for DSM and received travel reimbursement from DSM. He is member of the Scientific Board of PM International and President of the Gesellschaft für angewandte Vitaminforschung. A.F.G. has received research funding from Bayer Consumer Care and has acted as an advisor/consultant for and has received reimbursement for travel and/or speaking from Bayer Consumer Care.

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