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

Nutrients. 2020;12(4)
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Acute respiratory tract infections are a major cause of morbidity and mortality across the globe with seasonal influenza epidemics and outbreaks of viruses, such as Covid-19. The authors support public hygiene practices and the development of vaccinations however call for further strategies in order to reduce the impact that these infections have on societies. The role nutrition plays in supporting the immune system is well established. This review article and opinion piece presents the evidence for Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and folate; trace elements including zinc, selenium, magnesium and copper; and omega-3 fatty acids in supporting the immune system. The authors call for the consumption of a well-balanced diet, with additional supplementation of key immune supportive nutrients. Well referenced and with a helpful table of the rationale and recommended nutrient intake levels, Nutrition Practitioners will find this article useful when working to support client immune health.


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.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Immune and inflammation
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Covid-19/immune system
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Journal Article ; Review