Nutritional status of micronutrients as a possible and modifiable risk factor for COVID-19: a UK perspective

Br J Nutr. 2021 Mar 28;125(6):678-684. doi: 10.1017/S000711452000330X. Epub 2020 Aug 20.

Abstract

Recent scientific evidence has indicated that the elderly have increased risk of COVID-19 infections, with over 70s and 80s being hardest hit - especially residents of care homes and in clinical settings, ethnic minorities, people who work indoors and those who are overweight and obese. Other potential risk factors include lack of exposure to sunlight, darker skin pigmentation, co-morbidities, poor diet, certain medications, disadvantaged social and economic status, and lifestyle factors such as smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol. A key question is to understand how and why certain groups of people are more susceptible to COVID-19, whether they have weakened immune systems and what the roles of good nutrition and specific micronutrients are in supporting immune functions. A varied and balanced diet with an abundance of fruits and vegetables and the essential nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin A, B vitamins (folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12), vitamin C and the minerals, Fe, Cu, Se and Zn are all known to contribute to the normal functions of the immune system. Avoidance of deficiencies and identification of suboptimal intakes of these micronutrients in targeted groups of patients and in distinct and highly sensitive populations could help to strengthen the resilience of people to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to highlight evidence-based public health messages, to prevent false and misleading claims about the benefits of foods and food supplements and to communicate clearly that the extent of knowledge between micronutrients and COVID-19 infection is still being explored and that no diet will prevent or cure COVID-19 infection. Frequent handwashing and social distancing will be critical to reduce transmission.

Keywords: COVID-19; Essential micronutrients; Immune functions; Risk factors; Vulnerable groups.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19 / etiology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Micronutrients / deficiency
  • Micronutrients / immunology*
  • Nutritional Status / immunology*
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • United Kingdom

Substances

  • Micronutrients