Powering up your Immune System during COVID-19 pandemic

Vitamins C and D are particularly important in supporting an optimal immune response to viral infections. The scientific evidence would support higher intakes during the viral infection (up to the upper safe level). Very recent studies* during the pandemic have revealed more valuable insights into the importance of vitamin D recommendations. These are some of the findings:

· Vitamin D deficient cases (serum 25(OH)D of < 20 ng/ml) were approximately 19.12 times more likely to die from the disease

· Vitamin D insufficient cases (serum 25(OH)D of 21 – 29 ng/ml) were approximately 12.55 times more likely to die from the disease

New recommendations are:

“To reduce the risk of infection, it is recommended that people at risk of influenza and/or COVID-19 consider taking 10,000 IU/d of vitamin D3 for a few weeks to rapidly raise 25(OH)D concentrations, followed by 5000 IU/d. The goal should be to raise 25(OH)D concentrations above 40-60 ng/mL (100-150 nmol/L). For treatment of people who become infected with COVID-19, higher vitamin D3 doses might be useful. Randomized controlled trials and large population studies should be conducted to evaluate these recommendations.”

. Vitamin K studies have revealed that patients with lower vitamin K levels had worse prognosis.

Many people don't manage to consume a kind of diet that will offer an optimal level of nutritional support to face a virus such as COVID-19. This is why it is recommended to take daily intakes of vitamins, essential minerals and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA, found in fish and seafood). Moreover, the addition of fiber is recommended to support a healthy gut flora.

Philip Calder, Professor of Nutritional Immunology, explained "The strength of somebody's immune systems will not influence whether they get coronavirus; handwashing and social distancing are the best ways to avoid that. However, the immune system helps the body deal with the virus if they are infected and what we want is a system that functions properly when it's challenged with bacteria and viruses."

Among the foods Professor Calder recommends are a variety of fruits and vegetables which are a good source of vitamins and minerals that are important for supporting the immune system. Foods that are high in fiber promote the growth of good bacteria which interact with the immune system to make it work effectively. The third recommendation is oily fish which is a source of omega 3 fatty acids that help to regulate and control the immune system. Finally, animal protein is important as a good source of nutrients such as iron and vitamin B12. Therefore, vegetarians and vegans are particularly encouraged to supplement with vitamin B12 and iron when there is a deficiency.


*Raharusun, Prabowo and Priambada, Sadiah and Budiarti, Cahni and Agung, Erdie and Budi, Cipta, Patterns of COVID-19 Mortality and Vitamin D: An Indonesian Study (April 26, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3585561

* Grant WB1, Lahore H2, McDonnell SL3, Baggerly CA3, French CB3, Aliano JL3, Bhattoa HP4. Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths.Nutrients. 2020 Apr 2;12(4). pii: E988. doi: 10.3390/nu12040988.

* Dofferhoff, A.S.; Piscaer, I.; Schurgers, L.J.; Walk, J.; van den Ouweland, J.M.; Hackeng, T.M.; Lux, P.; Maassen, C.; Karssemeijer, E.G.; Wouters, E.F.; Janssen, R. Reduced Vitamin K Status as A Potentially Modifiable Prognostic Risk Factor in COVID-19Preprints 2020, 2020040457 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202004.0457.v1