Innate immunity – barriers set up in the eyes, mucus membranes, and the epithelium or lining of the gastrointestinal tract – function, as the first line of defense from an invading pathogen – with phagocytes, neutrophils, dendritic and natural killer cells that neutralize the foreign invader, setting the stage for the next phase of the immune response – the adaptive immune system.
The adaptive phase is characterized by responses from T and B cells, who remember the battle, in case of future challenges by the same organisms.
Micronutrients are critical to both innate and adaptive responses. According to Inadequacy of Immune Health Nutrients: Intakes in US Adults, the 2005 – 2006 NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys) – which appeared in the August issue of the online, peer-reviewed journal Nutrients – “vitamin D is known to trigger the production of antimicrobial peptides, and folate, vitamin B6 and B12 are all required for white blood cell production. Additionally, vitamins A, C, D, E, and zinc, iron, and selenium are all involved in the innate and/or adaptive immune response.”
The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines has determined that vitamins, A, C, D, and E, are under consumed across all populations. The Nutrient study authors from Science & Technology, Pharmavite LLC in West Hills, California, report that, “previous NHANES reports showed that for vitamins A, C, D, and E, a high percentage of the population fell below the estimated average requirement (EAR), a nutrient intake value that is estimated to meet the requirement of half the healthy individuals to avoid symptoms of a clinical or subclinical deficiency.”
The mineral zinc tends to be under consumed or supplemented by older individuals – a deficiency being associated with inadequate sleep cycles that can affect the immune response.
The World Health Organization, comment the California researchers, has classified the deficiency of vitamin A, as a public health issue, especially in children and pregnant women, in over 50% of all countries.
They add that, “vitamin C inadequacy is common in many countries, specifically with at-risk populations, and almost 1 billion people around the world have low vitamin D levels, regardless of ethnicity or age. Only 1/5 of the global population are at the optimal vitamin E status levels. In developing countries, zinc deficiency is a health concern.”
Research demonstrates that micronutrient insufficiencies/deficiencies and inadequate intake can impair immune function and weaken immune response, which may increase the risk of infections and other immune-associated diseases and conditions.
The researchers chose to analyze a large cross-sectional U.S. population database on dietary intake – looking to identify the current prevalence of nutrient inadequacies of key micronutrients critical for immune function. Then, review the function of these shortfall nutrients important for the immune system, and discuss strategies for filling dietary nutrient gaps.
Using the NHANES, a bi-yearly cross-sectional study of the US population conducted by Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), data was extracted from the 2005–2016 – based from two reliable 24 h dietary recall interviews of 26,282 adults aged 19–99 years.
It was determined that, “45% of the U.S. population had a prevalence of inadequacy for vitamin A, 46% for vitamin C, 95% for vitamin D, 84% for vitamin E, and 15% for zinc.”
This determination caused the researchers to conclude that, “given the long-term presence and widening of nutrient gaps in the U.S.—specifically in critical nutrients that support immune health—public health measures should adopt guidelines to ensure an adequate intake of these micronutrients” – with further on gong research recommended.
It makes sense with COVID-19, the flu, and other SARS-type viruses here to stay, we need to support our body’s strong immune response, if challenged. Consult your physician for recommended nutrient intake advice.