HOW NUTRIENTS SUPPORT A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM
Ask The Scientists – Health and Science Education
Micronutrients are required for the immune system to function efficiently. Micronutrient deficiency harms immunity by affecting antibody responses, leading to imbalances in the immune system. This increases sensitivity to infections and illness. Infections also aggravate micronutrient deficiencies by reducing nutrient intake, increasing losses, and interfering with utilization by altering metabolic pathways.
Inadequate intakes of micronutrients are common in people with eating disorders, smokers (active and passive), individuals with chronic alcohol abuse, certain diseases, during pregnancy and lactation, and in the elderly.
Micronutrients contribute to the body’s natural defenses on three levels. They support physical barriers (skin/mucosa), cellular immunity, and antibody production. Vitamins A, C, E and the mineral zinc assist in enhancing the skin barrier function. The vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and folic acid and the minerals iron, zinc, copper and selenium work in synergy to support the protective activities of the immune cells. Finally, all these micronutrients, with the exception of vitamin C and iron, are essential for the production of antibodies.
Overall, inadequate intake and status of these vitamins and minerals may lead to a suppressed immune system This increases the risk of infections and aggravates malnutrition. Therefore, supplementation with a multivitamin/mineral that includes these micronutrients can support the body’s natural defense system by enhancing all three levels of immunity.
Maggini S, et al. Selected vitamins and trace elements support immune function by strengthening epithelial barriers and cellular and humoral immune responses. Oct 2007. British Journal of Nutrition 98(S1):S29-S35.