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Immunity shortfalls laid bare

Too little too late – that’s the conclusion on the vitamins message drawn from a review commissioned by the Health and Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS)* and published in Nutrition & Food Technology Journal.

Reviewing evidence from more than 70 studies, lead author Dr Pam Mason found that no fewer than 10 different nutrients are required for a normal, healthy immune system – vitamins A, C, D and E; B complex; iron and zinc; selenium; copper; and omega-3 fats. Probiotic and prebiotic supplements are also proven to support immunity.

National dietary surveys reveal that many people – especially teens, young adults, and the elderly – are not getting the right amounts of crucial immunity nutrients in their diets.

“Nutrition has a significant impact on immune function,” said Dr Mason. “This is recognised by the European Food Safety Authority and other expert bodies around the world. Studies show clearly that people with a good nutritional status – who have the recommended amounts of nutrients in their diets – fare better in terms of resisting viral infections, recovering more quickly, and experiencing less severe illness.”

An international study of nearly half a million people by King’s College found that those who regularly took multivitamins, vitamin D, omega-3 fats and probiotics had a lower risk of coronavirus infection.

Meanwhile, a meta-analysis of nine studies found that vitamin D deficiency led to less protection from flu vaccines. However, supplementation with vitamin E, selenium, probiotics and prebiotics has been found to improve vaccine responses. This led to academics in the British Journal of Nutrition calling for supplements to be provided to elderly people before they receive their Covid vaccine boosters.

* The Health and Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS) is a communication service providing accurate and balanced information on vitamins, minerals, and other food supplements to the media and to health professionals working in the field of diet and nutrition.

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