Nutrients and supplements are the most abused terms when it comes to a healthy diet. In the age of Instagram where flaunting everything you eat and alternating between fancy diets like vegan, keto and low- carb is common, we tend to ignore the true science of nutrition. There is an endless pool of content available around this topic on the internet. However, this is the biggest reason for the various myths and misconceptions that people fall prey to. High cholesterol foods are unhealthy, only people with high blood pressure should limit their sodium intake, supplements are a waste of money; these are just a few misleading statements that need to be rectified.
One area of nutrition that has gained sudden interest and is relatively ambiguous to most people is the role micronutrients play in our overall immune response and well-being. With the pandemic putting the spotlight on the need to build a strong immune system more than ever, it is important to truly understand the types of micronutrients readily available and their impact on the body. For a long time now, the focus was on Vitamins A, C, and D. However, today the order of importance to maintain these micro-nutrients remains as Z, A, C, D – Zinc, Vitamin A, C, and D.
Zinc was underrated micronutrient
Before the pandemic, Zinc was one of the most underrated micronutrients. Doctors were sticking to prescribing the usual vitamin A, C, and D, and people were happy adding cod liver oil and oranges to the cart while they supposedly soaked up all the vitamin D from the sun! However, there is enough evidence to now suggest that Zinc is also a critical element in building immunity. It is an important ingredient in anti-viral drugs and antibiotics. It is also known to act as a preventive and therapeutic agency by complementing the prescribed treatment of COVID-19. It is possible that the deficiency of Zinc may be a potential added factor predisposing people to infection and detrimental progression of COVID-19.
While natural foods such as legumes, nuts, dairy, eggs, meat and whole grains are accessible sources of Zinc, it is also advisable to ensure your body is getting the necessary amounts with the support of added supplements.
Importance of Vitamin A, C, and D
All of us have heard or read these terms at least once in our lifetime. As per a study published in the International Journal of Research and Orthopedics, out of 4,624 people surveyed in the country, almost 77 percent showed vitamin D deficiency. Most people are known to have one or more of these deficiencies, some as severe as being undetectable in the system. So, clearly our bodies demand more quantities of these micronutrients and the natural sources are not able to fulfil these requirements. Let’s start by briefly understanding why vitamin A, C, and D should be in our consideration set.
Vitamin A plays a major role in the regulation of innate immunity and its deficiency can result in increased susceptibility to various pathogens in the eye, respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. Clinical studies have proven that Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid can decrease susceptibility to viral respiratory infections and pneumonia. Deficiency of Vitamin D, which is present in miniscule amounts in foods such as dairy products, cereals, and oily fish, has been associated with a higher incidence of acute respiratory infections. Distinct studies on the effects of these micronutrients on the body have suggested that they can aid in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
In conclusion, what is important to note is that nutrition is a very broad term and needs more attention, now more than ever. The above micronutrients in no way are exhaustive and the only means to achieving good immunity. However, understanding the role they play in our overall well-being and ensuring we supplement these in our diet, is a good place to start on this journey of healthy living.
Dr Manoj Chadha, Consultant Endocrinologist, Mumbai