Dietary supplements with vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and immune-boosting micronutrients offer a low-cost strategy for building resistance to COVID-19 and other acute respiratory diseases.
According to research led by Oregon State University, dietary supplements should be taken regularly to boost the immune system, and can often be safely consumed in amounts that exceed the recommended doses.
Professor Adrian Gombart of OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute and his collaborators say that public health officials are failing to provide clear guidance on taking dietary supplements to help resist COVID-19 and other infections.
“Around the world, acute respiratory tract infections kill more than 2.5 million people every year,” said Professor Gombart. “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.”
Professor Gombart explained that specific vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids play key roles in supporting the body’s immune system. Omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are exceptionally effective in strengthing immune function.
“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,” said Professor Gombart.
“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.”
The experts recommend a daily multivitamin combined with at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C and 2,000 international units of vitamin D.
“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,” said Professor Gombart. “And for certain viruses like influenza, there are annual vaccination campaigns.”
While vaccines can be very effective, they are also not foolproof. Professor Gombart emphasized that current public health practices like social distancing and hand-washing are important, but they are also in need of complementary strategies.
“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. We strongly encourage public health officials to include nutritional strategies in their arsenal.”
The study is published in the journal Nutrients.